Four years ago on September 13th, Galveston Island was being lashed by 110 mile an hour winds as Hurricane Ike made landfall just East of the Island.
The category 2 storm brought with it a massive storm surge that leveled the Bolivar Peninsula and devastated 75% of Galveston Island.
Now four years later, the signs of Ike are still present but so too are the many signs of progress.
“A lot of our local citizenry was deeply affected by Ike”, said Galveston Assistant City Manager Brian Maxwell. “The good news is that Galveston is on a strong comeback. We've just come off our best summer ever as far as tourism goes. Our port is growing and thriving. Our cruise business has doubled in size and most of our local business is seeing recovery.”
Much has happened in the four years since the the most destructive storm since the great storm of 1900.
Most of it has been good but Island resident Donna Gaines still hurts at the memory of that September day and the loss of her mother as a result of the storm.“I'm doing better”, she said “I'm doing better. I also Lost my job. I didn't get that back, but I guess I'm a survivor” , she added. “I've never been so devastated in my life as when I came home and didn't have anywhere to go. I never experienced anything like that before in my life. We lost a lot, but thank God we're back. You gotta be grateful for the small things.”
There are many more positive stories from the Island these days. Phil DeMarco owns Yagas Cafe and says there was 7 feet of water in his restaurant after Ike but he and his wife made the decision to re-build.
“Times are much better now,” he said. “We're back to pre-2008 numbers. This season was the best on record we've had and I'm glad we did it.”
DeMarco says the Pleasure Pier is a big reason his business came back so strongly this summer.
Assistant City Manager Maxwell says there are a lot more businesses like Pleasure Pier that are back on track.
He says the Galveston cruise industry has doubled since Ike and is now the 5th busiest cruise port in the U.S.
Maxwell says the effort now is to keep the infrastructure growth on pace as well. “ We're still repairing infrastructure every day that was damaged by Ike and we'll continue probably for the next couple of years,” he said.
Hopefully in the next couple of years we'll have our infrastructure re-built but it will be a sustainable infrastructure.
Should the next category 3, 4 or small category 5 storm come through we'll be able to handle it much better.
Photos: Hurricane Ike devastates Galveston, Bolivar
Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston and other parts of southeast Texas when it slammed ashore on Sept. 13, 2008. Take a look back at what the storm left behind.