Texas Town ‘Isn’t Ready’ for Residents To Return After Ike
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
GALVESTON, Texas — There’s a grocery store open for business on Galveston Island. Cell phone towers are connecting calls. More lights are coming back on at night.
But for all the little signs of recovery in this barrier island community thrashed by Hurricane Ike nearly a week ago, Galveston just “isn’t ready” for residents to return. Not even for a quick look around at their battered homes and businesses, officials said yesterday as they pleaded for tens of thousands to wait at least another week before trying to come home.
“By staying away and being patient, you are making it possible for us to get you home in a week or so, instead of the months it would take if the city’s infrastructure were more overwhelmed at this point,” Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas said.
The roughly 45,000 people who fled Galveston Island are among the more than 1 million who evacuated the Texas coast as Ike steamed across the Gulf of Mexico. Governor Rick Perry said 22,000 people are still living in more than 200 shelters, and he joined Ms. Thomas yesterday in asking for patience.
“I absolutely understand they want to get back to their homes … I’d like to get back to the mansion,” Mr. Perry, who’s been living in temporary quarters since his official residence burned down in June, said.
Galveston Island remained closed, as did the worse-off Bolivar Peninsula, where the storm’s surge washed entire neighborhoods into the sea. Search teams pulled out of both areas this week after sweeping every house, authorities said.
To the northwest, life took more steps toward normal in Houston, where traffic picked up on the downtown streets less than a week after the massive Category 2 storm blew through. Flight control of the International Space Station was to return Friday to the Johnson Space Center, which shut down a few days before Ike’s strike.
The Port of Houston — one of the world’s busiest — reopened all but two of its terminals yesterday, with the entire port set to resume normal operations Friday. The Port of Galveston planned to reopen Monday.
CenterPoint Energy said it had restored power to nearly 900,000 homes in the Houston area, and the utility was fast approaching the point where more people in the nation’s fourth-largest city would be with electricity than without. About 1.5 million are still without power statewide.