Waiting to hear from the missing

September 25, 2008 8:47:11 PM PDT
As residents of Bolivar Peninsula prepare to "look and leave" Friday, not only are people going to see what's there, but also, what is not. ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | School closings | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim | Latest power numbers

It will be a gut wrenching return for anyone who crosses the damaged single lane bridge to the lower peninsula. But for some families, the search for what was lost can't start until they find who was lost. Hurricane Ike moved in hours sooner than most people thought it would. By Friday morning, September 12, waves were over the Seawall and already flooding roads on the Bolivar Peninsula.

"They weren't trying to stay there," said Roy Arrambide, whose mother is missing. "They just got trapped there."

Marian Arrambide, Magdalena Strickland and Shane Williams were trying to get off the peninsula from their Port Bolivar home. The ferry to Galveston shut down the night before.

The 27-mile drive to High Island was the only way out. At the house on Thursday was a sign with a Dallas phone number and a plea for any information.

Roy is desperate for any sign of life.

"I am no closer 13 days later to finding solid information than I was the next day after the storm," he said.

This Port Bolivar neighborhood still has plenty of homes, but we saw no people Thursday. A passing deputy told us he heard the missing family may've holed up at the Crystal Palace Motel.

"We had 5 or 6 people to ride out the storm," said hotel owner Jay Patel.

But they were not any of the missing.

"They didn't stay here," said Patel. "We don't know them."

No luck.

"We're hoping and praying these people are somewhere alive," said Major Ray Tuttoilmondo with the Galveston County Sheriff's Department. "We just don't know yet."

Together with volunteer agencies, the Galveston County Sheriff's Office is trying to track down missing people on websites, in shelters, and on lists of those rescued from the peninsula. At this point, there are 6 people they can't find.

"Our fear is that number is going to grow," said Major Tuttoilmondo.

There still has not been a grid by grid search of the largely rural, heavily damaged peninsula. Dogs are searching a debris pile on Smith Point across the water for bodies. But it is slow going and not offering much hope.

"If they were alive, they would've called me," said Roy. "I've already come to the conclusion they're not with us anymore."

Thirteen days without word is a very long wait. Law enforcement are concerned Friday's return to Bolivar for residents may bring more bad news and grim discoveries.

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