Bolivar residents returned home Friday

September 26, 2008 6:51:48 PM PDT
Residents of Bolivar Peninsula crowded onto the only roadway back home Friday, the first day they were allowed to return and check out the massive wreckage left behind after Hurricane Ike roared through this thin strip of land along the Gulf of Mexico. ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | School closings | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim | Latest power numbers

It was slow going along the two-lane State Highway 87, though, as traffic backed up at least 5 miles and didn't move for long stretches. Some commuters spent more than an hour on the highway, which was mostly cleared of debris, before passing through a checkpoint onto the peninsula.

The peninsula's 4,000 or so residents are being allowed back on a "look and leave" policy, lining up to return despite warnings they could find snakes and alligators as they sorted through their debris.

The peninsula just northeast of Galveston was among the hardest-hit areas when Ike blasted ashore Sept. 13th with 110 mph winds and a storm surge that swept away homes and businesses.

Under the look and leave policy, residents are allowed to come to the peninsula and begin repairing their homes but cannot live in them as there is no power, water, sewer or telephone service and cell phone service is limited. A bridge on the island, near Rollover Pass, has been damaged and only one lane can be used by traffic. Swarms of mosquitoes are also a problem.

While most residents fled before Ike arrived, a small group stayed.

The Bolivar Peninsula has a population of more than 4,000 residents but that more than doubles during the summer months with the arrival of tourists and beach home owners. The peninsula stretches 27 miles along the Texas Gulf Coast. It is bounded on one side by Galveston Bay and on the other by the Gulf of Mexico.

The peninsula, named for SimÄon BolÄévar, the South American revolutionary hero, is about 3 miles at its widest point and about one-fourth of a mile at its narrowest. Its five residential communities are Crystal Beach, Port Bolivar, Caplen, Gilchrist and High Island.

Ike has been blamed for at least 62 deaths, including 27 in Texas. More than 1 million people evacuated the Texas coast.

The Bolivar ferry is operating, but it's being used for emergency vehicles. Yesterday, the ferry yesterday transported law enforcement vehicles. Power trucks were also allowed to be ferried to help speed up power restoration to the area.

The only way into the Bolivar Peninsula is the bridge over Rollover Pass along Highway 87. The bridge was heavily damaged during the storm and it cannot take vehicles wider than 12 feet.

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