Galveston nearly ready for residents

September 23, 2008 1:18:43 PM PDT
By 6am Wednesday, all residents of Galveston Island will be allowed free access to their home city. But city officials still want them to carefully consider the situation before making the trip.ROAD TO RECOVERY: Breaking news on Ike | School closings | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim | Latest power numbers

Galveston Mayor Pro Tem Danny Webber promised the city will be ready for residents to return Wednesday morning, and begin the hard work of getting things back in working order.

"This is our island. We are going to rebuild it," Webber said. "It will not be the same Galveston Island that you left."

Officials are hoping residents can avoid long lines of traffic to get onto the island. Beginning at 6am Wednesday, the checkpoints will no longer be used to check identification. Authorities are hoping to pass out a flyer with important safety information, but if the process delays traffic too greatly, that will be discontinued.

[ READ THE SAFETY FLYER NOW ]

Residents of Galveston's west end will remain on a look and leave policy. A curfew remains in effect for the entire island, from 6pm to 6am. Violators are subject to a $2,000 fine.

Getting to Bolivar

As for when residents of Bolivar Peninsula can return, details have not been fully worked out yet, but officials are hoping residents can check their property under a look and leave policy by Friday. Galveston County Judge James Yarborough explained some access depends on the condition of Roll Over Pass. The ferries are not yet fully operational and won't be in their traditional sense for months. The ferry currently running is shuttling supplies.

"You will be shocked in many cases, I think, by what you see," Judge Yarborough said. "We want you to come home, we want you to rebuild, we want you to stay."

Getting power back

Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc cautioned residents that they will not be able to simply turn on their home's electricity.

"The process to get your power on is going to take a lot longer than you want," he said.

Flooding salt water in homes has caused corrosion to the components of the electrical system. Residents will need to get an electrician to check over their homes. Once that has been done, a city inspection will be required. Only after an inspection certificate has been issued can CenterPoint turn on power to homes.

CenterPoint spokesperson Kenny Mercardo confirmed the power is operating and the substation on the island is in working order.

"We are making tremendous progress rebuilding our distribution system," he said.

In addition to electrical problems, every single gas meter in the city has been shut off. Residents are warned not to use natural gas appliances. They will need to contact a certified plumber to inspect. After that, a permit will be issued.

Help for the city

FEMA officials are working to set up transitional housing for residents whose homes are uninhabitable. LeBlanc also hopes to provide a list of hotels with available rooms.

While work continues, and support is still available through sources including FEMA, sailors with the US Navy will be leaving their position off Galveston. They have been providing many support services to city officials, primarily focusing on the infrastructure, including Galveston's port facility and airport.

"We felt that this was important for our sailors," said Commodore Robert Lineberry. "We leave ... happy to have helped."

"I just want to say the City of Galveston is appreciative to the US Navy," LeBlanc said.

Safety concerns

As officials have been warning, there is still a boil water order in place, and UTMB is not currently open as a full-service hospital. Residents with certain health conditions are encouraged to consider carefully their decision to return. For example, those residents on dialysis, or with existing heart conditions, may wish to delay their return until more services are restored on the island.

Mosquitoes on the island are fierce. Additionally, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are closed. They are not considered safe for people to swim at this time.

Keep your family safe this hurricane season. Check our complete tropical weather preparation guide


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