Bolivar on the road to recovery

February 18, 2009 9:32:10 AM PST
All week long, we're taking a look at how the road to recovery is progressing in Galveston and on the Bolivar Peninsula. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

We were on Bolivar right after the storm hit in September and went back recently to see how far along its come.

On much of Stingaree Row, it looks like time has stood still. We noticed a dented car partially buried in the sand, a couch upside down in a field, part of a blender, wood, twisted metal, the traffic light still left on the ground and the Stingaree Road signs still dangling, just like it was five months ago.

The state's blackout on pictures on Bolivar after Ike hit forced us to travel hours by boat to give victims what they begged for -- a first chance to see what had happened there.

For months, folks had been waiting for Stinagrees Restaurant to re-open.

"We see them on the weekend, coming through the parking lot, just making a circle, driving through, (asking) 'Are you guys open'?," said Bolivar Peninsula resident Brian Gralheer.

Thanks in part to Gralheer work, that day finally arrived last Thursday. Stingarees no longer has to have a sign that says 'Open Soon,' another psychological boost.

Two weeks ago, the school re-opened. There's now a store open...signs of the road to recovery.

But there are still areas that look like they haven't been touched since the storm.

"You see improvements, but then you see that, too," said Gralheer. "It's like, nothing's ever been done."

Ninety-tons of debris has already been cleared, but that's less than half the total mess. Seeing Crystal Beach in the days after the hurricane was a personal journey, too. Just weeks before the storm, I had been in a Chevron gas station before the wall of water destroyed it.

Today, that gas station is just a shell of what it was. The ATM screen is covered with a thick sheet of sand.

There was destruction as far as the eye could see. Highway 87 was covered with sand. Highway 87 is open again, but so many homes are gone.

Only a handful of homes on Emerald Beach were left standing.

"I'm just thankful that my house survived, because all of my neighbors are just slabs," said Crystal Beach resident George Strong. "Their house floated away. There were eight houses in the this block and there were four houses there, five houses there. You look around and you see just pilings and slabs, there were houses."

His house is still not livable, so Strong lives in a trailer with his dogs.

"It's a little scary here at night because there are no street lights and no one around," he told us. "We've had burglaries and break-ins."

And life in Crystal Beach is still a struggle.

"There's no drug stores here," said Strong. "There's one gas station and it ran out of gas last weekend."

Insurance companies are adding to the frustration.

"This is a really huge disaster," said Strong. "We seldom get any notice at all and I think that really hurts peoples' feelings because they think they deserve as much attention as Galveston or even New Orleans," said Strong.

One signs of recovery in Crystal Beach -- there's going to be a Mardi Gras parade next Saturday on Highway 87. East of Crystal Beach in Gilchrist, there's a much tougher road.

The government is talking about closing Rollover Pass and only 16 of 300 structures were left standing after Ike.

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