Reporter Robert Stanton ran a story in last Thursday’s Houston Chronicle about his non-medical diagnosis of "Post Ike Stress Syndrome." While he noted that Ike was not the first Galveston storm he has been through, he wrote that significant visual reminders of "lives torn asunder" were beginning to take their toll on the most steadfast of Texans. He expressed concern for his community and the history of Galveston being "pushed away" as the coastal area tries to recover. I share his concern.
Just north of Galveston Island is the Bolivar peninsula. Ike devastated the southern end. I was at a meeting of Bolivar residents on Wednesday at the Beaumont Courthouse where people were learning about Small Business Administration loans, FEMA grants, and permitting issues pertaining to reconstruction. It is hard to describe to others the sense of helplessness, frustration, and despair people feel when their property rights and homes are discussed by third parties from Austin and Washington. These people don’t want to sell their property to the government, they want to rebuild their homes and re-establish their neighborhoods.
Ike happened during significant national media coverage of the election. As a result, the media attention so prevalent following Katrina was not evident following Ike. Hurricane Ike is similar to Hurricane Wilma because Wilma was also largely ignored in the national press. Yet, each storm caused more than $20 billion in damages. Those were big numbers until the recent federal bailout of Wallstreet. The Galveston County Daily News and Houston Chronicle noted that 3800 people are being permanently laid off from the medical center in Galveston. Many will not be able to rebuild because what was previously oceanfront property is now in the Gulf of Mexico.
As with Katrina, there will be significant legal fights over the amount of wind damage caused before the flood waters washed all evidence away. While Texans are hardy and proud individuals, seeing your home destroyed and not being able to rebuild takes an emotional toll. Behind the smiles, Robert Stanton correctly reported that there is tremendous sadness and anxiety.