Ike photo gallery 3 – Galveston

For 10 days after Hurricane Ike hit the Texas gulf coast, we were without power or internet access. But we didn’t stop taking photos. Here are some of the images we saw during and after the storm.

On Thursday, September 11, before Hurricane Ike rolled in — which I’ll call Ike day 1 — the City of Galveston called a mandatory evacuation of the entire island. When the storm passed by, it left so much destruction in its wake, that City officials deemed it unsafe for anyone to return. We were all eager to assess the state of my parents’ home and my Gran’mom’s condo, but all we could do was listen to descriptions of the damage on the radio (because we didn’t have power in Houston, either).

Tuesday, Sept 16, 2008 – Ike day 6

The storm moved off by Saturday afternoon, but it was noon Tuesday before Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas announced a look-and-leave policy. Galveston residents could come survey their damaged property, so long as they left the island again by 6:00 pm.

Two hours later, Mom and Dad were prepped to head south. They sat in a 10-mile traffic jam with other anxious residents, and finally made it on to the island by 5:00 pm, just an hour before the curfew. Here are some of the images they saw along the way:

boats parked on 61st street
Boats from Offats Bayou are now parked on 61st street

61st fish pierless
The entire 61st street fishing pier at the end of the jetty just isn’t there anymore


Former “caution: drop off” signs along the Seawall are now just poles bent parallel to the pavement

broken apartments
The apartment building off Pine Street lost more than its roof

bent power poles
Power poles bent and broken by the wind left the entire island without electricity.

Looking at these images, it’s easy to understand why there was no power, no phones (cell or otherwise), no fresh water, and no working sewers on the island. Given the 6:00 pm curfew, my parents barely had time to walk around their home, and see that it took water, before it was time to leave.

Wednesday, Sept 17, 2008 – Ike day 7

The next day, the City of Galveston discontinued the “look and leave” program. They asserted that too many people had come without leaving, and that with the sewer plant offline, they created a public health risk. My parents were anxious to get back to Galveston and start swamping out their home, and they were angry that they weren’t allowed to go.

Thursday, Sept 18, 2008 – Ike day 8

Around noon Thursday, Chuck got a call from a friend saying that some folks had managed to get on to the island despite official statements to the contrary. Within an hour, he and Mom had loaded up to roll south. Our cousin Sean bravely volunteered to go with them, lending youthful strength to the expedition.

Fifty miles later, they were stopped at the check point. But Dad flashed his UTMB identification badge and the officer waved them on to the island.

Before heading to the house, they headed east to check Chuck’s office and the Quaker meeting house. Here’s some of what they saw:

downed wires
Power and telecom lines were down everywhere

downed transformer
Whole poles and transformers were down, too

warehouse ripped open
This metal warehouse on Harborside Drive was ripped open

tumbled autos
Cars left on the street had floated into new configurations

tumbled trailer
Semi-trailers had floated to new parking spots, too

Willie G's boat-thru
Willie G’s is right on the water, but the boats are usually on the other side

Galveston’s historic Strand district dates back to the last century, before the Great Storm of 1900 nearly washed the island away. This time, shops and restaurants on Strand took more than 8 feet of water.

Historic Strand
The Strand was mostly quiet and dank after the flood

Strand caked with mud
Receding flood waters left the Strand caked with mud and debris

The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), where Chuck works, is the largest employer in Galveston County and operated the only tier one trauma center in fifty miles. The campus buildings remained mostly intact. However, its labs, kitchen, sterile processing, and imaging facilities were all on the first floor and took water, effectively shuttering the hospital.

pump truck
Big pump truck outside John Sealy Hospital

big CAT generator
A huge CAT generator powered essential equipment

Rebecca Sealy
Rebecca Sealy was wet-but-intact, like other campus buildings

wet furniture
Wet first-floor furniture littered the curb

Heading west again, they drove through an old tree-lined neighborhood where the Quakers meet and Chuck’s friend Helen lives:

Helen's house
The trees in front of Helen’s house, like many on the island, were already dying from too much salt water

Quaker meeting house
The Friends’ meeting house was built up



Murdoch’s and the Mermaid, two souvenir shops that extend on piers out into the Gulf. A third pier held the only Galveston restaurant that stretches out over the water: Hooters (formerly Ocean Grill).

Wednesday, Sept 24, 2008 – Ike day 14

I made my first trip (my Dad’s fourth and Mom’s third) to Galveston to work on recovery. The huge plane trees in the backyard are still standing, though suddenly completely naked. While this may look normal this time of year up north, it looks really odd here in Texas in September.

The house went under approximately 29″ of polluted gulf saltwater:

Dansby water line

So we have 2,000 square feet of soggy carpet, couches, beds, and boxes of papers and records growing impressive blooms of multi-colored mold and mildew. These photos fail to convey both the amplitude of the poofy mold colonies (Mom just observed, “no wonder mold is a problem in ‘Colony Park’!”) and the smell of the raunchy brown slimy water.

mold blooms on old record albums

slimy electronics

Clean up is difficult because the water supply is limited (and not safe to drink). There’s also no power and therefore no air conditioning to inhibit the growth of unwelcome flora. We need to get stuff dry and clean quickly, but the going is slow. Everything is saturated with water and therefore impossibly heavy and cumbersome to move. For example, the sofabed must have weighed more than 400 pounds, because the mattress hidden inside was completely soaked. We were absolutely unable to lift it onto a dolly, so Dad proposed removing the mattress. But it took all three of us with a pry bar and two 2x4s just to get it open and extract the wretched mattress. We spent more than an hour getting the mattress and sofa frame out of the house!

During five hours, we struggled to haul the sofa bed, a loveseat, two chairs, several boxes, perhaps 200 square feet of wet carpet and pad, the big hi-def tube TV, the entertainment center, and several A/V units to the curb. (We also took bedding, towels, clothes, and some photos to the back to haul north and recover.) Around 5:00 pm, one of the official post-disaster debris hauling contractors pulled up outside the house. With their claw-loader, it took them just 8 minutes to collect all of our day’s effort.

hauled off couches

At first, I was impressed with the deft skill of the claw operator. We’ve been meaning to get rid of those tired old couches for years. But when he plucked up my Dad’s old desk chair and plopped it in the back of the truck, I was suddenly overcome with sadness. When my Dad observed later that was his grandfather Papa Chan’s desk chair, we both felt sadder still.

farewell to Dad's desk chair

At 5:40 pm, my alarm alerted us that it was time to load the cars, close the house, and get off the island before the 6:00 pm curfew. By the time we left, only the family room was mostly empty and clean.

one empty room

We still have a long, long way to go. While we were working, an hispanic couple we’ve never seen showed up and offered to bring four others and work for a day. Their asking price was really high, but worse, we realized that two or three of us couldn’t adequately supervise six strangers in the house. My parents have already lost so much. The thought of paying strangers to potentially pilfer more was scary. We elected to hope for help from trusted friends and family instead.

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