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The Forgotton Coast

April 26, 2009

Hurricane Ike left mark on Texas Coast

By Andrew Dossman 2/09/09

Texas Coast, Bolivar Peninsula- What was once a summer hot spot and family get away, is now nothing but a barren sand flat covered in the debris of what used to be many families’ homes.

On September 15th 2008 Hurricane Ike drove through the Gulf of Mexico and hit directly on the the Texas coast. The force of the storm was mostly felt in Galveston and the town of Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula. For those who don’t know, Galveston Texas was almost completely destroyed in 1900 from a hurricane. Galveston faired much better after Ike in 2008, largely because Galveston, after its destruction, was rebuilt several feet higher then before and had a sea wall placed in that ran down the coast for several miles to protect the city from future hurricanes. Bolivar Peninsula unfortunately has no sea wall, so there was nothing to protect the people and property from the wave of the storm surge that plowed across the narrow strip of land.

The peninsula was completely cut off after the storm. The landing where the transport boats came in from the Galveston side was damaged and the bridge on the other side of the peninsula was destroyed. No one was allowed onto the peninsula for several days since a road block had been set up by the National Guard restricting people to check on their property or look for family members. Many rented boats from across the bay and took it upon themselves to go across the several miles of water and do what they could to help.

Several days later people were allowed across to after showing proper paperwork that they were residents or owned property, this was to help prevent looting. Homeless residents flooded back to see if they could find anything from their lost homes. In moments like these, one thinks that the frustration and anger of losing one’s home would cause them to sink to the lower levels of human interaction.

However the goodness in people was seen in the days after the storm. When residents reached their land they found furniture, appliances, cars, even whole houses. The problem was these items were not theirs. The storm surge had scattered the objects over miles of land. Instead of taking what the residents could get, almost all of them began to make piles of debris on the side of the road. When asked why the residents were doing this the answer was “This is someone else’s property, some of it may hold sentimental value, it is all that is left of their homes, we make the piles so people can drive by and see if they find anything that belongs to them, and as you can see everyone else has got the same idea.”

photo: Dossman

Photo: Dossman

During Christmas break I visited Bolivar, which holds a special place in my heart since their was a beach house that my family had owned since I was about ten years old. The storm washed it away, the only thing left is the concrete slab which used to be the floor of our garage. What used to be a landscape covered in houses and green grass was now a barren sandy wasteland dotted with some of the newer houses that were strong enough to survive the walls of water.

Photo: Dossman

Nothing much had changed in the months since the storm hit, to the time I visited the area. After talking to some of the fellow ex-residents, who were there to pay respect to their fallen homesteads, I discovered that many of them were not planing to rebuild. After interviewing several people, I found a common problem they had to deal with.

Insurance companies were not paying out the proper amounts to their poicy holders. Many had said that there were tornadoes in the area when the storm hit, however the insurance companies are only paying out in flood insurance money, which is about a 1/6 or lower in some cases of the homes value. Without the wind insurance being paying out, the residents will never have enough to rebuild.

Compounded with this, there was another huge problem. The lack of any substantial news coverage from main stream media outlets. I wouldn’t be surprised if after reading this it would be the first time you even heard about the damage done in the Galveston coastal area.

Photo: Dossman

Many of the families living on Bolivar Peninsula are riding the poverty line, many are Latino, working on fishing or shrimp boats. This is not big news for the minds of the media giants to care about. Katrina came and went and if a storm cant “top that” then the media has no interest. Instead we are hit by stories of pipe dreams and how government is going to take care of everything. Government failed at Katrina and they failed to even look at Bolivar. Damages are in the Billions and dozens of lives were lost, yet this is not newsworthy.

People are suffering all over the place readers. Libre! is here to be a voice for as many of them as possible. Contribute what you see by writing a story for us, because chances are someone else won’t.

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