“We’ve definitely got some hurricane winds here…really, this is mind blowing what we’re witnessing right now and being able to broadcast to you live.”
Hurricane Ike made landfall at two-ten the morning of September thirteenth, 2008. With winds of more than 110 miles an hour and an eye that was 46 miles wide, Ike first hit the east end of Galveston Island.
(sounds of hurricane winds and waves)
By the time the winds had calmed and the water had receded, Ike’s damage made it the third most destructive hurricane to ever hit the U.S. And while most of the deaths and the worst of the destruction was on the Bolivar Peninsula, parts of Galveston looked like an Iraqi war zone.
“This is truely amazing…”
One year later things are getting back to normal. Some displaced families decided not to return but many have come back.
“I did come back, because I like this place.”
John Crocker is one of the many thousands who evacuated during the storm. For 24 years Galveston has been his home. And even though he doesn’t want to move away from the coast, he’d consider selling if the market was better.
“It wouldn’t sell, I don’t think at the moment — but I might.”
“There was a tree over there where that telephone is…”
A few miles away lives Erich Willenburg. He took his family to higher ground as well. And when he came back…
“Anything that wasn’t bolted down was gone. I had two sheds back here in the back. I don’t know where they’re at. Lawn mowers. Everything gone.”
Bill: “You just never saw it again?”
“Never saw it.”
All of the homes in his neighborhood are built on stilts. Most people saw their ground floors wiped out.
“It was a mess. Everything was scattered everywhere and people’s houses were just wiped out underneath.”
(Kemah Boardwalk music)
If you head a little north in Galveston Bay to the Kemah Boardwalk, it’s almost like a hurricane never happened. The restaurants are open, bands are playing and the tourist business is almost back to normal.
Ryan Hutchinson works at the Aquarium, where you can eat and check out various species of fish in their large tanks. Thanks to emergency generators the fish survived.
“We were all knee deep in debris and mush and rotten seafood trying to get this place cleaned up.”
Both Galveston and Kemah have been hit hard by hurricanes in the past only to see the people come back and rebuild.
Erich Willenberg whom you heard from earlier in the story put it this way.
“You just pick up the pieces and keep rebuilding.”
Ironically, the deadliest natural disaster in American history was the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. More than six thousand people died in that one. The locals know Mother Nature will surely send another one their way again. The only question is when. In the meantime, residents are picking up the pieces and getting on with their lives as best they can.
Bill Stamps. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.