Angel Jake at the RBC (Rainbow Broadcasting Corporation)

Angel Jake at the RBC (Rainbow Broadcasting Corporation)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Galveston, Texas, One Year after Hurricane Ike

Heron-cam, aka H.C. Bird, here: Last Sunday, I escorted Jake and Just Harry to their favorite animal camp and then flew with their folks to Galveston for an annual seaport convention. These conventions are scheduled at different seaports in the US and Canada years in advance. Ironically, the year it was scheduled in New Orleans -- 2006 -- was the year after the area was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and the year it was scheduled for Galveston -- 2009 -- was the year after Hurricane Ike. Next year, it's scheduled for Halifax -- so history won't repeat itself just yet -- but the irony was not lost on the hundreds of convention attendees. As someone said, where the sea meets the land is where people (and we water birds?) like to settle -- and that's where they are often most vulnerable.

Once we got to Galveston, I was so overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the sea and the fishing opportunities that I kind of abandoned my post and left it to the Boyz' Mom to describe what they experienced. Anyway, since this is serious stuff, she is probably better at it than I -- a mere flighty bird, despite my impressive wingspan -- might be.

So, the Boyz' Mom here. I warn you, no cute photos of Jake and Just Harry -- just some impressions of the heroic efforts the City and the Port of Galveston have made since Ike hit the Island a year ago September. These impressions were all the more striking because, most of the time we were there, the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay were grey and roiling as several severe storms passed through. Our hotel was right next to the seawall that was built after the 1900 hurricane, so we had a front row seat to observe what it must have felt like in the hours before Ike.

Along the seawall, a monument erected to commemorate the 1900 hurricane has been transformed into a tribute to survivors of the 2008 storm. Letters, photos, mementos, dried flowers -- all dot the low fence that protects the statue -- staying there until the new winds fade them or rip them to shreds.
So the sun, when it shone, was a precious sight and more like the spirit of the community Everywhere downtown are these signs of the community's comitment to the future and markers that show the height of Ike's storm surge and flood waters.
In many instances, the markers compare the level from 1900 with levels from other storms and then -- at the top, -- the high waters from Ike.I'm five feet four inches -- so you can get a sense of those levels from where the marker is on this brick building (that's not a wig -- it's wind-swept hair!).One of the events we attended was at the historic 1894 Opera House. I had visited it years ago when I did a cruise study for the port and remembered that special feeling of being surrounded by wood paneling and carpeting and other elements that dated back a hundred years or more. Before the event started, though, we were advised to look around and imagine 13 feet of water where we were sitting!! To the City's triumph over matter, everything has been restored, to the best of their ability -- new carpet, new wood, new seats - - and the Opera House is used for events throughout the year. --its memories surviving in the imaginations of its visitors. The same thing is true with the historic Tremont Hotel. The water levels weren't as high as at the Opera House-- but the first floor had to be renovated, with new furniture, and now bears just the slightest lingering whiff of the storm. We stopped to see the Bishop's Palace -- which had lower level flooding -- and is still being repaired. And passed by Ashton Villa -- which looks impeccable.

Ah, but then the last two days we were there, the roar of the sea was replaced by the roar of something quite different: the unforgettable sound made by the 100,000 to 300,000 bikers who had rode into town for the Annual Lone Star Bikers Rally!!! Streets leading to the main downtown area -- the Strand -- were closed off so they could be filled with tents and vendors selling street food and BEER.,.
Jack and I ventured along the main drag and drew some curious looks at our inappropriate attire. One "biker babe" approached Jack, who was wearing a sports jacket, and asked:"Did you forget your motorcycle, honey???"

While we were downtown, we stopped in a few shops and talked with Galvestonians -- most of them what they like to call "BOI" -- Born on the Island.
Amazing people. They showed us the photos of what their businesses looked like just after the storm. Told us how everything had to be replaced. And expressed that commitment to starting over which was so evident throughout the community.
And yes, we asked about the dogs (and cats) -- and just about everyone had a story of rescuing five, ten, even sixteen or more animals, finding food for them, and providing shelter until they could be restored to their owners -- or other help could be found.
Having lived through several hurricanes ourselves, we know what it is like to open your door after the storm has passed -- assuming you still have a door -- and find your surroundings completely different. But 13 feet of water is kind of hard to visualize. And even harder to imagine is the tireless energy that went into getting the town and the port ready for business and visitors in one very short year. We were awed.


Dexter said...

Those high water marks on the wall were really scary. But you had a good time, right?

Too many motorcycles. My Auntie lives in South Dakota where all those motorcycle guys go in the summer. LOUD!


Moose said...

Very nice tour! Momma is very intrigued by storm history and also by galveston because her great grandmother survived the 1900 storm. Have you read Isaac's storm? She says it is an excellent account of the storm.

Noah the Airedale said...

Thanks for a very interesting post. Those high water markers are amazing. When everything is normal you just cant imagine the water reaching such heights.
It's great that the city is being restored so quickly.

D x

♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ said...

What a lovely post! It was very tragic to have Galveston so damaged, but it is a tribute to the spirit that lives on to see all they have done to restore things. Thanks for sharing.

Woos, the OP Pack

Eric said...

That was really interesting. Sobering too. Knowing you always live with the risk of nature at it's worst.We are so lucky this side of the very angry pond you showed. The water levels on the wall from the hurricanes are staggering so the recovery and onward spirit of Galveston is all the more remarkable. Paws up to them. Paws crossed too that another never crosses their, or of course, your path.

Wiry loves and kisses Eric xx

Sunny,Scooter, (sometimes Jamie) said...

We have been out of pocket for so long, have missed visiting y'all. Thanks for this post. It is an amazing and awe striking thing to see what mother nature can do. I am so proud of Galveston and their Texas grit(hey, you know us Texans...hard not to brag ;)
Sadly some of the little coastal towns were just decimated, gone. I haven't had the opportunity to drive the coast and see how those are doing, but, well I kinda figure they have been at work too.
Thanks for the post and the pictures!
Sunny&Scooter and Jamie(who did the writing and bragging on the Texas spirit :)

Scruffy, Lacie and Stanley's Place said...

Boyz...those pix were amazing...we loved the wild ones of the sea...unbelieveable...and no...we can't imagine 13 feet of water either...the only hurricane that Mumsie and Daddy ever experienced was Hugo when they lived in Charlotte and that was plenty...thank you for showing us what these tough folks had to deal with!!

And as for it being your Mom's barkday yesterday....

We're wishin' her the most fabulous barkday ever!!!

Glad you liked the card!!!!!

Kisses and hugs!!


NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! said...


My mom is 5'4" too so she khan see what it would be like fur her!

It makes the flooding the basement has been subjekhted to seem like a drop of Mango drool!

Tank woo fur sharing!


Lorenza said...

Thanks for sharing this very interesting post!
Lots of things we did not know!
Kisses and hugs

Asta said...

Thank you fow that infowmative , twavelog.
I'm so glad that those poow hoomans wewe able to get so much wepaiwed and back to the way it was.
It must have been pawsome to see
Natoowe cewtainly can be vewy scaiwy
I hope Jake and Just Hawwy get to have a gweat belated celebwation wif theiw mom fow hew biwfday when you wetuwn home.
smoochie kisses

Maxmom said...

Hi there
Thank you for an extremely interesting post! It is incredibly hard to try and imagine what must have happened there. Here in Johannesburg, South Africa, we have one of the most moderate climates in the world - well away from geographical disasters - so to have a glympse of what you have experienced is a rare privelege. Thank you for it all.

Scottie the 'Cutie' said...

Wow, that's a cool trip! Thanks for sharing the photos with us! Wish I was there...especially to see the thousands of motorcycles! *grins*


Scottie the 'Cutie' said...

Hi Jake & Just Harry,

Mom wants to thank you and your Mom for the kind words and cool idea! She's definitely looking into writing as a job, so we'll see how it goes! Thanks again!