Saturday, September 20, 2008


With Hurricane Gustav exited and just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Hurricane Ike pounded the Texas coast on Saturday September 13th inflicting heavy and catastrophic damage to Galveston and many other portions of south east Texas. Residents of Galveston were even warned by the National Weather Service that they may "face certain death" should they stay in defiance of mandatory evacuation orders given by Galveston part-time and unpaid Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas. Many stayed, however, and remain so presenting a conundrum for city, state and federal officials. That too will resolve itself. A large number of residents who did not heed the order to evacuate in advance of the storm are still missing. Local officials have even speculated that many may have been washed out to sea. We sure hope that they are found alive and well.

Many shelters remain open throughout the State of Texas including many in the DFW area. The Dallas Convention Center remains the lynchpin of the sheltering effort, having entertained just under 1,500 evacuees following landfall. As of today some 630 evacuees remain as the daily population fluctuates back and forth as people alternately arrive from the Texas coast even as others try and return home (to what?).

Authorities caution returning residents that there is no power; non existent or, at best, limited sewer services and spotty water utilities (among other challenges) that await residents when they start to return next week. I guess I ask myself why were evacuees allowed en masse back in (even for a look) when it was obviously hampering the recovery efforts well underway by FEMA and the State of Texas? Yea, I guess that I would want to know what happened to my home and my possessions, but reason has to prevail here… Perhaps a neighborhood by neighborhood survey by residents would keep the roads open and allow bona fide residents to evaluate their property and retrieve belongings for what will surely be a long recovery period. That is apparently the tact that Galveston is now taking allowing residents of the least damaged and ultimately the areas most devastated to “look and leave” in distinct phases.

Reports are filtering out now that returning residents and first responders have gotten ill from the Galveston situation exacerbated by the lack of sanitary facilities and the insidious fungus and mold that always follows floods. I remember the floods in Gainesville and Sherman, Texas last year and becoming ill when we were doing damage assessments. The black mold has this terrible acrid smell that almost seems to block out the ability to breathe. The reality of this soon transcends the heart breaking emotion of “getting back home” and all you want to do is get away…

As with most post disasters we now are seeing the finger pointers and spin doctors coming out of the woodwork and from under their rocks. Many now allege that Mayor Thomas didn’t order a mandatory evacuation when it appears from the new stories we saw here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, that she did. At least I couldn’t find any documentation where she was alleged to have advised her residents to “hunker down”.

This is all reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina when the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana miserably failed their constituencies immediately prior to and following Katrina while FEMA and other organizations waited for permissions to enter the area. We have since cut through all that BS with local and state authorities almost eagerly waiting on their hot lines to declare a disaster and request Federal assistance.

The post Ike reaction has all the hype and spin of a post Katrina event with little substance, rather vulgar, pointless posts and Internet gibberish. At any rate both New Orleans and the State of Louisiana have done a great job since. The point here is a thoughtful analysis of the situation in Galveston is surely in order but not the maniacal ramblings of an ill informed or agenda driven public.

Let’s concentrate on getting resources to those affected by this disaster and then engage some planning that will allow for a greener and smarter community and minimize the affects of the next “big one.”

I want to thank evacuee Tessie for presenting me with a pink heart at the Dallas Convention Center earlier this week and a happy face on my ID and photograph. It was an improvement. Hope your life returns to normal real soon…


Ned Buxton

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