HURRICANE IKE RECOVERY RESPONSE Hurricane Ike was the third most destructive hurricane to make landfall in U. S. history with an estimated $22 billion in damages to Texas. Ike’s damage started September 12, 2008 with a 12 foot storm surge flooding 75% of Galveston Island and made landfall September 13. Hurricane Ike sustained winds (110mph) were considered a Category Two, only being one mile per hour from a Category Three (111mph). Ike’s storm surge was considered that of a Category Five. Texas Gulf Coastal Communities are devastated by the slow recovery process provided by the Federal Government.
FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) response was slow in providing food, water, housing, and other necessities for victims. FEMA arrived two days after the hurricane with supplies. American Red Cross was first to respond in Galveston the day after Ike made landfall. Major damage to homes consisted of roof damage, flooding (up to six feet of water), sides of buildings crumbled, and entire homes destroyed. FEMA promised Texas 300 trailers per week for the worst hit areas being the first to receive them.
After six weeks fewer than 200 trailers had been provided for Texas residents. Many people remained in tent communities waiting for a place to live. People were not willing to quit their jobs and relocate. As Galveston residents remained in San Antonio and Austin in shelters FEMA insisted apartments was available in the Houston/Galveston area. The few apartment vacancies in existence were too expensive for people to pay. The majority of the homeless left in these shelter were elderly people, women, and children having only a fixed or limited income.
Galveston Mayor, Lyda Ann Thomas, pleaded with FEMA for 500 trailers for homeless Galveston residents only to receive 54 trailers six months later. FEMA refused to set up temporary mobile home parks because of their experience with Hurricane Katrina in Alabama and Louisiana. Temporary mobile home parks remained in these areas for over two years. FEMA’s response to Galveston Mayor was an immediate NO. The message Texas residents received from FEMA’s reaction was Texas would suffer for what happened in Louisiana and Alabama.
FEMA admitted to being slow with their response and never giving an actual reason why until over a year later when other problems were in the works. Their reason being they were not equipped to handle housing for such a large disaster. My residence at Ike’s arrival was Liberty, TX. Liberty is approximately 60 miles inland, northeast of Houston, TX. Liberty was under mandatory evacuation September 11 at 6pm with most people staying including myself. Liberty received major damage to homes and buildings also and power was out for seven days.
The story remains the same concerning response; American Red Cross arrived the day after Ike and FEMA three days three days later. Homes in this area remain in need of repairs due to lack of funding and delays. The battle with FEMA continued to grow as time passed. People who were fortunate enough to receive a trailer were being forced out by FEMA in December 2009, three months prior to the deadline. Going against FEMA regulations caseworkers took it upon themselves to give people a 72 hour eviction notice. Case workers began to threaten people, and even scare children in some cases reported.
One case reported was by a woman with 7 children. FEMA caseworkers frightened her children to the point of not wanting to go to school for fear they would come home to find the trailer and all their possessions gone. FEMA caseworkers arrived again three days later knocking on doors and windows. The frightened woman ran crying and hid in her bathroom while calling RISE (Recovery for Ike Survivors Enterprise) for help. Three caseworkers from RISE responded immediately and confronted FEMA caseworkers about the problem.
The end results was FEMA contributed $1,000 toward the purchase of the trailer and a local church provided the remaining $2,000. The caseworkers from RISE began sending emails to our State Senator, John Cornyn inquiring about the pressure/harassment tactics of FEMA. These complaints were taken seriously and our Senator was demanding an explanation from FEMA. A day later the deadline was extended until July 10, 2010 and new caseworkers were being sent to the areas of people they had displaced to furnish them with apartments.
FEMA granted another extension July 7, 2010 until January 7, 2011 for people living in government trailers. The majority of recovery has come from non-profit organizations and new organizations formed by State and Local Governments. The City of Galveston formed a long-term recovery program ten weeks after Ike consisting of five focus areas, 13 work groups, and 42 project teams. RISE is a non-profit organization designed to help provide support for people affected by Hurricane Ike. Rise is operated by Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response in Austin, TX.
The Galveston County Housing Assistance Program has recently received over 3300 applications with approximately 1700 being from the City of Galveston. Two families have received a home from federal funding in Galveston County. Applications were put on hold July 16, 2010 due to requirement changes made by the federal government and the confusion between state and federal governments about the interpretation of rules. The original rules for eligibility depended on back taxes owed, amount of money received from FEMA, insurance companies, and their wealth and assets.
New rules include reporting any back child support owed, applicants at any time that have been approved for government small business loans, and proof they lived in their home before Hurricane Ike. Applicants are now being forced to change or submit new applications. The City of Galveston has been hit hard trying to obtain funding for repairs and replacement of roads, streets, and sewer system. Concrete sewer pipes were installed during World War II. Saltwater filled storm sewers and sewer pipes that caused a mild sulfuric acid to form therefore eating away at the concrete pipes.
Another result of the saltwater is streets sinking and potholes forming. No funding is available for things that go wrong almost two years after a hurricane. Galveston will suffer for years to come due to the 2010 Census. Population in Galveston has decreased from 57,000 to an estimated 46,000 since Hurricane Ike. People waiting to return to their homes will be counted in areas they are living, not where their residence actually is located. Galveston will lose much needed federal funds for schools, hospitals, job training centers, emergency services, public works projects, etc.
Galveston School District for the 2010-2011 school year faces a 16. 2 million dollar deficit due to Ike promised funds by the state that are now being refused. The 1700 student loss from Hurricane Ike will drastically be felt from the upcoming census report for federal and state funding. A recovery response of this nature desperately needs to be addressed by the Federal Government in a more humane manner. A time limit should be put on the making of rules and regulations for applications to eliminate the delays in the recovery process.
Government agencies should be given 30 days to make add-ons to existing rules and regulations. Local government should have control of distributing the funds for repairs. Local Agencies are more aware of situations and what needs to be done. Being a part of something always has a tendency to have better and more effective results than being an outsider looking in. The people of Galveston and other Gulf Coastal Communities in Texas are losing hope of ever getting help. The U. S. Government appears to be out of control with their demands and cares nothing about the people.
Thus determined to get their homes livable again people remain waiting on the government funding that no one is allowed to use. When speaking of FEMA in Texas you are considered to be talking about the enemy, along with any other part of the Federal Government. FEMA was turned over to Homeland Security and took on a new construction of operations. Homeland Security has shown no results of improvement since taking over. Hurricane Ike Recovery remains today and has become more of a war between Federal, State, and Local Governments than a recovery process.
Governor Perry, on July 29, 2010, wrote to President Obama asking for federal aid to 21 South Texas counties that have been declared disaster areas due to Hurricane Alex and a tropical depression that followed. These areas received nine to twelve inches of rain causing flood damage. Only time will tell if any improvements from the Federal Government have been made concerning the recovery process. Hurricane Ike’s destruction and slow recovery inspired two Galveston Daily News reporters, Leigh Jones and Rhiannon Meyers, to write a book of their own experiences and local interviews. Infinite Monster” has information before, during, and after Ike concerning evacuation, people’s devotion to Galveston Island, and problems with FEMA. One example of pride and devotion was that of 83 year old Mr. Fletcher, refusing to evacuate any hurricane. Mr. Fletcher was prepared to face Ike, a hurricane that was being compared at times to the “1900 Hurricane” that his parents and grandparents survived. Ike was on the same destruction path and almost the same date as the “The 1900 Hurricane”. “The 1900 Hurricane” was recorded as the most deadly hurricane in U. S.
History killing an estimated 8,000-12,000 people making landfall in Galveston September 8, 1900. Mr. Fletcher lived across the street from the seawall in a downstairs townhouse. Falling asleep during the night as Ike made a destructive landfall; Mr. Fletcher was awaken by the ocean flood waters. The mattress where he was sleeping had floated off of the bed frame. Mr. Fletcher continues today with his loyalty to Galveston Island and will never evacuated from a hurricane. The authors of “Infinite Monster” dedicated the book to the people of Galveston as being the ones who refuse to accept defeat.
The best resource of staying informed about the recovery process and actual events is an online news station, Guidry News. Reporting local events, Guidry news covers everything and offers Galveston City Council Meeting’s video. Any developments concerning Ike recovery is reported immediately so citizens are able to know updates as soon as possible. Other resources include The Houston Chronicle, Galveston Daily News, ABC 13 News/Houston, TX, CBS 11 News/Houston, TX, Detective Dion Watson of the Galveston City PD, Galveston residents, and my own personal experiences.