Ike 15 years later: Looking back on lessons learned from storm that made landfall in Galveston

Elyse Smith Image
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Ike 15 Years Later: Lessons learned from Galveston Island
Hurricane Ike made landfall 15 years ago. ABC13 revisits the lessons learned from the storm with the hope of being better prepared for the next one.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Sept. 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall along the east end of Galveston Island, packing winds up to 110 mph and a storm surge that reached 17 feet.

Years later, we're still learning from this life-changing storm on how we can be better prepared for the next one.

On the 15th anniversary of the storm, ABC13 Meteorologist Elyse Smith spoke to Dr. Sam Brody, a professor at Texas A&M University and the director of the Institute for a Disaster Resilient Texas.

He was one of the first people on the ground after the storm and has been studying the event ever since. He's an advocate for the Coastal Spine project, better known as the Ike Dike, which is still facing funding hurdles in Congress.

"My worry is it's not going to be built soon enough. We are out of time. On average, a major storm gets into Galveston every 15 years. So statistically, we're on borrowed time," Brody said.

An added concern is how the island has rebuilt after Ike, with more expensive buildings and more people living on the island.

RELATED: A look back at Hurricane Ike

"If hurricane Ike hit again today, the same storm, the impact would be exponentially greater," Brody said.

The only barrier that has withstood the test of time is the Galveston Seawall, which was built after the great Galveston hurricane of 1900. And to think it's over 100 years old and gave at least some protection to the island for over a century is incredible.

But when it comes down to thinking about future storms 100 years from now, especially considering sea level rise and climate change, this island needs more than this seawall to keep people and their property safe.

To do this, Brody suggests a well-rounded approach to preparation, mitigation, and communication, noting how impacts differed from hurricanes Allison, Ike, and Harvey.

"We tend to chase the last great storm. We have to start thinking about the synergistic effects of different flood events. And our decisions, plans, and policies need to accommodate other types of disasters," Brody said.

Brody mentioned how this island is "a ticking time bomb" when it comes to the devastating impacts from flooding and storm surge, which was already seen once on the island 15 years ago.

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SEE ALSO: 'Ike Dike' proposal aims to become coastal barrier to increase protection from future hurricanes