Monday, October 27, 2008

Galveston, One Month Later

"The City That Isn't Coming Back."

GALVESTON — Coming over the causeway onto the island, you can smell the mildew.

Then you see the boats strewn every which way. Apparently, a month ago they simply came in on the 14-foot tide and didn't go out with it. And so they remain, upside down or resting on their keels, in parking lots and on boulevards, in front yards and in esplanades, ruined beyond salvation, waiting for the 110 mph winds that drove them here to drive them back to the sea.

This place where I was born and where my parents have lived for many years has picked a bad time to be in trouble. This time, the storm surge was so high and so vast that the north end of the 27-mile-long-by-3-mile-wide island met the south end and the west end met the east.

Best guess is that 75 percent of the homes have flood damage. That only 60 percent of the 60,000 people who lived here on Sept. 13 when Hurricane Ike blew through are back. That the main economic engine of the island will most likely lay off 4,000 workers in the next month, that it already would have if not for the Texas legislature intervening.

Seven thousand people here still don't have power. A lot don't have land-line phone service or natural gas. You have to wait in line to shop at the Target because not enough people have returned to staff the stores. You can shop at will at Wal-Mart, but there are armed guards watching.

Nobody is dead in the streets but lives are gone, figuratively enough, anyway.

Almost every blade of grass in this town is dead because saltwater is not its natural milieu. The mighty oaks on Broadway, the boulevard that splits town and is still home to admittedly bereft mansions now, are either broken in two or look like they have rusted in place. Thousands of gallons of water are being poured on them to save them, but the graveyard of trees is only a small window to the graveyard of homes that awaits if you take any right or left turn off Broadway and venture into neighborhoods.

At the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Ike, there is no ferry service from Galveston to Bolivar Island, where more bodies are likely to be found in coming months. There is no way to know what will be rebuilt. Whether people will ever have the money or the will to try to start over.

The trash, one debris company contractor told the local paper, will probably take two years to scrape off the streets.

And you know what? They haven't complained the way that the citizens of New Orleans did after Katrina, blaming President Bush for their misfortune, so the news media got bored and left after about a week.

No comments: