Ike’s Curse Lingers On
A week after hurricane Ike made landfall, more than 1.5 million people in the Galveston and the Greater Houston area are still without power – including a number of our own PAS family members.
I learned over the weekend that one of our finest came back from evacuation to find much of the roof to his house gone and significant water damage throughout his house. Ike also practically destroyed one of our executives' vehicles and flooded a portion of his house.
The only saving grace last week was the cool front (low 60’s at night, low 80’s at mid-day) that magically appeared after Ike moved out of Texas. And that cool front is now gone – we are once again dealing with 90-degree temperatures and 90% humidity. The most affected by the repressive heat is the elderly. My own in-laws (83 and 80 years old) have been without power for nine days now. The best case scenario calls for their electricity to be restored sometime mid-week.
My father-in-law, a retired Shell Deer Park Refinery veteran of 34 years, loves working in his yard; that’s been his biggest hobby since he retired about twenty years ago. His backyard looked like a war-zone after the hurricane. We spent the weekend cutting down trees – some 45-feet tall, two-feet in diameter – and cleaning up debris. (Great unplanned workout…using muscles I haven’t used in a while. I will be feeling it over the next few days.)
Meanwhile, ghastly pictures
of the aftermath have started to flood the Net and they give a graphic realization of the destruction left behind. From the flattened beach houses (like the one belonging to our own Gayle) to the boat landed in the garden of my favorite restaurant – Villa Capri – and to the confused lion stranded on the beach
, the images are unbelievable.
The resilient residents of Texas have already begun the recovery effort. Hardware and lumber stores are having a difficult time keeping up with the high demand for building materials.
The free market economy is in full swing; the imbalance in labor supply-and-demand has pushed the price of cutting down a mature tree from, say, typically $300 to well over $1,000. Entrepreneurs from other states have joined the action; tree surgeons, arborists, and plain old lawn keepers have come to the area from as locations as far as Wisconsin. City officials are expressing concern over price gouging.
Certain parts of Houston are beginning to look normal – but that is not the case along the shore lines and lake fronts. We took a drive to Seabook and Kemah on Saturday. Certain sections of Kemah are blocked off with yellow police tape by the authorities as if they were crime zones.
Third Costliest US Hurricane of All Time
At US$27 Billion, Ike is the third costliest
hurricane to ever hit the United States – Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew hold the first and second places, respectively. Of course, this is an initial cost estimate for Ike. Based on new discoveries on a daily basis, there is little doubt the cost estimate will continue to rise.
Kudos to the Authorities
The death toll resulting from Ike in the US is about 65 as of the time of this blog. This is far fewer than what could have been, in large part due to the sound planning and execution by the local, state and federal authorities. Unlike hurricane Rita
three years ago that led to huge embarrassment for the authorities when hundreds of thousands of motorists evacuating the area were stranded on freeways for more than 24 hours...this time around, the pre-storm planning and the repeated communication with the public paid off. There has been no news of stranded evacuees and freeway parking lots.
To Rebuild (Galveston) or Not, That is the Question?
Some have questioned the wisdom in rebuilding Galveston; after all, it ends up destroyed, requiring reconstruction every so many decades. Should the public – through insurance premium hikes and government relief efforts – pay for the rebuilding of the island in support of its 60,000 or so residents and businesses?
The hurricane of 1900, which wiped out the island and more than 6,000 of its residents, did not stop the reconstruction of the island. In fact, the ingenuity of an engineer named Henry Roberts
and the construction of the 17-foot high Galveston Seawall
made the island more attractive to tourism and commerce. What new innovation will result from the mess that Ike has left behind that will make the island once again a magnet for beach lovers?
So, what is your answer, To Rebuild Or Not?