Sunday, March 8, 2009

Really overdue post-Houston post

In typical fashion for me, it's been almost two weeks since I posted anything. I felt kind of busy after getting home from Texas so haven't written anything since then. The trip was, in a word, great. It had been a long time since I had spent any real time with my father and step-mother and it was nice to do. We spent a lot of time just chatting and catching up on life. My father and I would run some errands in the day, usually have a lunch out, and maybe just drive through some of the local areas. On the weekend we did a lot of sight-seeing and that was also lots of fun. Saturday we drove south to the USS Texas and the San Jacinto battlefield monument. Both were interesting but the Texas, a US battleship built in 1914, was really interesting. I love boats of any kind and it was great getting to crawl all over this huge ship that was chock full of history. The lower-deck areas were open and it was fascinating to see just how the crew lived on the ship. The accommodations were very "rustic" to say the least. We thought we'd spend about 30 minutes on the ship but I convinced my step-mother Sharon that it wasn't difficult to negotiate the ladders below decks and we ended up spending about two hours on board. I took lots of pictures, but sadly lots of them look alike.

The San Jacinto battlefield monument wasn't as interesting, but still was enjoyable. It's a big tower built in the 1930's to commemorate the battle between Texas rebels and Mexico. It was the battle that led to Texas becoming a US territory, so it was a fairly important battle. There was a small museum with some interesting pieces and then the tower itself. Sadly, being approximately 60 stories up in southeastern Texas still doesn't give much of a view. It's from the ground, it's flat from above.

Sunday we decided to drive down to Galveston since we all like the area, and we wanted to see the damage from Hurricane Ike. There was clearly visible damage starting in the Clear Lake area and it got worse and worse as we got closer. Galveston seemed to be rebuilding well, and that was good to see. We decided to catch the ferry over the Bolivar since Sharon had heard the damage was really bad there. The eye had passed right over the eastern end of Galveston Island so Bolivar was in the very dangerous northeastern quadrant of the hurricane. On top of that, the storm surge was much higher than anticipated, about 20 feet at Bolivar. Making things worse, most of Bolivar is no more than 4 or 5 feet above sea level. One can do the math and figure out how much water was covering the area, and add breaking waves from the winds and it was pretty ugly. We expected a lot of damage, but weren't prepared for how bad it really was. We first stopped in a residential beach neighborhood and it had been mostly wiped off the map. The houses before the hurricane had been built on stilts to protect them from storm surge. Sadly, it didn't make any difference for most of the houses. Where there were rows of houses before, there was just a collection of sticks poking out of the sand. We found sinks, light fixtures, ceiling fans, floor tiles, and all kinds of other evidence of the houses sticking out of the sand. Everything metal was turning to piles of rust after being inundated with sea water. Sharon and I commented on how quiet it was and I realized that there was just no life anywhere. On the beach in Galveston there were manyh seagulls and other types of birds, and as we drove out of town we continued to see lots of birds in the trees. In Bolivar, there was nothing. No birds had returned to the area and it was completely quiet. It was eery not having any sounds of nature.

We drove further east towards the town and the devestation just went on for miles and miles. When we reached the town, or what was left of it, it looked like a bomb had gone off. Many of the buildings were destroyed, and those that were left were uninhabitable. It was amazing that it had been 5 months since the storm and what we were seeing was after considerable cleanup had been done. After a while it became overwhelming and we decided to head out. Unfortunately the devestation continue for miles and miles as we drove out of the area. It was interesting to see the power of nature, but also very sad to see how the lives of so many people had been disrupted. Not to mention the couple or more dozen people who were killed in Bolivar when the storm went through.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit with my father and Sharon. It was a real treat for me, even more so because they not only paid to get me there, but insisted on paying for everything while I was there. It was a very nice gift for them to give me since I do enjoy spending time with them. And of course, here are a few pics.

Update: This post was long enough (OK, more than long enough) but I meant to add a link to some before and after pics on the USGS site posted here.


Chris said...

I'm amazed people keep coming back and rebuilding in Hurricane zones year after year and cry each time their homes get destroyed.

Don't get it. They must *really* love the land. Or be filthy stinkin' rich to keep rebuilding.

The JAFer said...

I'm glad you and your Dad/Sharon got the time together. I'm even more glad that you're back home.

Grrrowler said...

@Chris: The houses in this pic were new and built to withstand hurricanes. The eye went directly over them and they had 12 feet of water with breaking waves at the height of the storm. The ground floor was designed to wash away, which it did, but none of the houses suffered any damage or any water intrusion at all. I talked to the builder and asked about the cost. While these houses were in the $3 million range he claimed that any new house of any style or size could be built to the same standards for about 1% additional cost to the overall price. It seems that if people want to continue to live in hurricane-prone areas they should be required to build to "hurricane-proof" standards.