Devastated Texans Struggle To Recover

By: AP
By: AP

(CBS/AP) For many Texans who made it through Hurricane Ike, whether in their own homes or in shelters, the disaster of the past few days is nowhere near over.

It could be weeks until the more than 2 million customers without power in the Houston area have their lights turned on again.

Galveston has no drinking water, electricity, gas or sewer. The bridge connecting the island is closed to anyone trying to get onto the island, and may remain closed for another week. The causeway also was damaged during the storm; engineers are still assessing its structural stability.

A massive effort is underway across the state to get food, water and ice to people who had no electricity - and efforts to distribute relief supplies are being criticized as slow.

Throughout the area, lines snaked for blocks at gas stations that had little if any gasoline to pump. People trying to run gas-powered generators came up short.

Thousands packed shelters looking for dry places to sleep.

"Quite frankly we are reaching a health crisis for the people who remain on the island," said Steve LeBlanc, the city manager in Galveston, where at least a third of the community's 60,000
residents remained in their homes.

With no services and flooded conditions hampering rescue crews from accessing residents, with gas connections being shut off to avoid fires, and with mosquitoes on the rise, Galvestonians who stayed are being urged to leave.

On Monday rescuers flew into Bolivar Peninsula, a hard-to-reach barrier island just east of Galveston, and uncovered a devastated landscape: Hurricane Ike had swamped entire subdivisons, and emergency crews feared they would find more victims than survivors.

Homes were splintered or completely washed away in the beachfront community that is home to about 30,000 people in the peak summer season.

"They had a lot of devastation over there," task force leader Chuck Jones said. "It took a direct hit."

Jones did not have information on whether anyone had died on the island, mainly because leaders still don't know how many people stayed through the storm that struck early Saturday.

Of particular concern is a resident who collects exotic animals who is now holed up in a Baptist church with his pet lion. "We're not going in there," Jones said. "We know where he (the lion) is on the food chain."

All along the Texas coast, rescue crews engaged in the biggest search and rescue operation in Texas history went houses-to-house for survivors. More than 2,000 people have been rescued since Ike roared ashore.

One 90-year-old woman was found alone in her apartment, badly dehydrated, her heart racing. Doctors said just one more day undiscovered, she would have died.

Emergency and search teams found five bodies on this island on Sunday. When they get into this island's low-lying West end, they are apprehensive they could find more bodies of people who defied a mandatory evacuation order.

After rampaging through Texas, Ike dumped as much as 6 to 8 inches of rain on parts of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, spawned a tornado in Arkansas that damaged several buildings, and delivered hurricane-force wind to Ohio. Missouri had widespread flooding. More than a million homes in the Midwest are without power.

"I Have Nowhere To Go"

The death toll from Ike rose to 32, but many of those were far to the north of the Gulf Coast as the storm slogged across America's midsection, leaving a trail of flooding and destruction. Glass-strewn Houston was placed under a weeklong curfew, and millions of people in the storm's path remained in the dark.

Rescuers said they had saved nearly 2,000 people from waterlogged streets and splintered houses by Sunday afternoon. Many had ignored evacuation orders and tried to ride out the storm. Now they were boarding buses for indefinite stays at shelters in San Antonio and Austin.

"I have nowhere to go," said Ldyyan Jonjocque, 61, waiting for a bus while holding the leashes of her four Australian shepherd dogs. She said she had to leave two dogs behind in her home. She wept as she told of officers rescuing her in a dump truck.

(CBS)(Left: Texans line up for supplies following the decimation of Hurricane Ike.)

In hard-hit towns like Orange, Bridge City and Galveston, authorities searched door-to-door into the night, hoping to reach an untold number of people still in their homes, many without power or supplies.

A line of at least 30 cars formed early Monday at a strip mall in Orange, a Texas town on the Louisiana state line east of Beaumont, a day after food and water were distributed there by the National Guard. But the line dispersed after state troopers told the gathering that supplies would be passed out elsewhere.

Wanda Hamor, 49, of Orange, had been fifth in line with her 21-year-old son William. They were trapped in their house by floodwaters until Monday morning before they could venture out.

They had run out of food Sunday night. They left for Gustav and say they couldn't afford to leave for Ike or buy any more than $60 in food.

"He's diabetic and he has to eat four times a day," she said of her son.

Many of those who did make it to safety boarded buses without knowing where they were going or when they could return to what might remain of their homes. Shelters across Texas scurried to find enough cots, and some evacuees arrived with little cash and no idea of what the coming days held.

Only one out of four Houstonians has power. As of 8 p.m. last night, according to CenterPoint Energy, electricity has been restored to 380,000 customers, meaning 1.72 million customers were still in the dark.

In Houston, tensions were rising among more than 1,000 who had spent several nights at the George R. Brown Convention Center. They complained that they couldn't get information about how to get food and clean clothes. The city's mayor said only 1,300 people were inside, but those sleeping on cots said it felt like thousands.

Lines snaked down side streets at gas stations that had little fuel to sell. Some looked like parking lots. At sites distributing water, ice and prepackaged meals, people stood on foot for hours waiting for anything they could take home.

Michael Stevenson, 37, had wandered from shelter to shelter since the storm struck before ending up at the convention center. At one shelter, he said, he barely ate.

"They give you a little cup of water every four hours. They feed us one peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We were in there for about 18 hours before we could go outside and get some air," he said.

Steve McCraw, the state homeland security director, said there were at least 284 mass shelters in Texas. He said there were more than 37,000 evacuees but noted that number "fluctuates from day to day."

"A very major operational priority is taking care of them, including moving water, food (and) ice as quickly as we can into those areas," said McCraw.

In Austin, more than half of the evacuees who had sought shelter from Ike have since left, but authorities can't say for sure where they are now.

Sara Hartley, emergency operations spokeswoman for the city of Austin, said there were 6,200 evacuees at the peak of sheltering operations that began before Ike hit. Now there are only 2,700, prompting authorities to begin consolidating shelters. There are currently eight shelters open in the city, down from 23, she said.

But as some caregivers begin to see evacuees leaving their safe havens, Gov. Rick Perry is warning residents not to return to the devastation in the hard-hit areas of southeast Texas. He said first responders and emergency workers are too busy to deal with returning evacuees.

"Do not come back into the impacted area until the officials ... have given that all-clear," Perry said at a news conference in Orange. "Stay where you are."

Most area schools are closed through Tuesday or Wednesday at the least; some, including school districts in Goose Creek, La Porte, Pasadena, Hitchcock and Texas City, are closed "indefinitely."

The Finger-Pointing Starts

Despite television images over the weekend of trucks carrying supplies heading toward the Texas coast, there have been complaints of a lack of food and water, not just for hurricane survivors and evacuees but for rescue crews.

Hundreds of first responders at two Texas staging areas for Hurricane Ike have run out of food and water.

Rep. John Culberson (R- Tex.) said Sunday that 300 National Guardsmen, state troopers and other emergency workers are going hungry at a high-school football stadium - and at another staging area on Houston's west side.

Culberson blamed FEMA for the gaffe and says he tried to contact Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who is touring flood-stricken areas of Texas.

Culberson says several buses full of gas are sitting idle at the stadium while crews await instructions. He called on area residents to take food and water to the crews at the stadium - despite official warnings for people to stay off Houston roads.

Federal officials were on the defensive Sunday when asked about delays in getting aid to those in need, and those trying to help.

Part of the problem was the establishment of distribution areas.

Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Tex.) told the Houston Chronicle that he had been told by FEMA officials before Ike made landfall that food and water were already staged ay Ellington Air National Guard base in Houston.

"Now it's 'on the way'? That doesn't make any sense to me," Lampson told the Chornicle. "The storm's been over for 30 hours."

Lampson later expressed the frustration of residents in his district who struggle in the storm's aftermath. "For them not to have the ability to recover from that, to find a tarp in the town in which they live or anywhere around it, I don't understand, and I'm just as frustrated as the many people who have called my office or talked to me as I've traveled this Congressional District; I'm angry about and there truly needs to be some change."

He said he'd asked Chertoff to "please see that somebody's head rolls in these decisions."

At a press conference Sunday, Chertoff said city and county officials in the Houston area asked FEMA to take over responsibility of establishing distribution points for supplies, "so that was somewhat of an unexpected challenge."

"I'm not blaming anybody, I understand, you know things come up, is that we were asked to take on the responsibility of actually getting them to the points of distribution and manning the points of distribution.

"This is not about a screw-up."

Disabled Elderly Abandoned During Storm

An investigation is planned into why staff at a public housing complex in Houston apparently left elderly residents without care overnight during Hurricane Ike.

Gov. Perry says many of the residents of the federally subsidized Independence Hall complex have medical problems and needed help.

After residents complained, a FEMA task force showed up at 2 o'clock Sunday morning and checked on them. The agency says they checked again during daylight hours and that residents who wanted to leave were taken to a shelter at a convention centre.

Even for those who still have a home to go to, Ike's 110 mph winds and battering waves left thousands in coastal areas without electricity, gas and basic communications - and officials estimated it may not be restored for a month.

"We want our citizens to stay where they are," said a weary Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas. "Do not come back to Galveston. You cannot live here at this time."
\
Kathi and Paul Norton huddled inside their house in Crystal Beach until it collapsed and was swept away.

"The whole floor was just opened out," said Paul Norton, 68. Their flag pole kept the house from collapsing on top of them, buying them a few seconds to escape, holding onto the staircase.

"You never know what a hurricane is like until you ride it on a staircase," said Kathi Norton, 47. As she spoke outside the giant, warehouse-like shelter on a former Air Force base in San Antonio, busloads of new evacuees were arriving, bumper to bumper.

The hurricane also battered the heart of the U.S. oil industry as Ike destroyed at least 10 production platforms, officials said. Details about the size and production capacity of the destroyed platforms were not immediately available, but the damage was to only a fraction of the 3,800 platforms in the Gulf.

It was too soon to know how seriously it would affect oil and gas prices.

President Bush said the hurricane's toll on refineries and pipelines is creating "an upward pressure on price" for people at the gas pump.

"There's going to be a pinch," Mr. Bush said after a briefing on hurricane recovery efforts. "I wish it wasn't the case, but it is."

Mr. Bush made plans to visit the area on Tuesday.

Ike was downgraded to a tropical depression as it moved north. Roads were closed in Kentucky because of high winds. As far north as Chicago, dozens of people in a suburb had to be evacuated by boat. Two million people were without power in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Of the 32 dead, five were in the hard-hit barrier island city of Galveston, including one body found in a vehicle submerged in floodwater at the airport. There were two other deaths in Texas and six in Louisiana, including a 16-year-old boy trapped in rising floodwaters. Several were farther inland.

Two golfers died when a tree fell on them in Tennessee. There were two deaths in Indiana; three died in Missouri. One person died in Arkansas and three in Ohio, including two motorcyclists killed when a tree toppled on them at a state park.

Ike killed more than 80 in the Caribbean before reaching the U.S.

Houston, the fourth-largest U.S. city, was reduced to near-paralysis in some places. But power was on in downtown office towers Sunday afternoon, and Texas Medical Center, the world's largest medical complex, was unscathed and remained open. Both places have underground power lines.

Its two airports - including George Bush Intercontinental, one of the busiest in the United States - were set to reopen Monday with limited service. But schools were closed until further notice, and the business district was shuttered.

Five people were arrested at a pawn shop north of Houston and charged with burglary in what Harris County Sheriff's spokesman Capt. John Martin described as looting, but there was no widespread spike in crime.

Authorities said Sunday afternoon that 1,984 people had been rescued, including 394 by air. Besides people literally plucked to safety, that figure includes people met by crews as they waded through floodwaters trying to find dry ground.

(AP Photo/Smiley N. Pool)(Left: Floodwaters caused by Hurricane Ike cover Texas Highway 73 near Winnie, Texas, on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008.)

Still others chose to remain in their homes along the Texas coast even after the danger of the storm had passed. There was no immediate count Sunday of how many people remained in their homes, or how many were in danger. The Red Cross reported 42,000 people were at state and Red Cross shelters Saturday night.

The search-and-rescue effort included more than 50 helicopters, and 1,500 searchers and teams from federal, state and local agencies.

From the city of Orange alone, near the Louisiana line, more than 700 people sought dry ground - "a Herculean effort to organize a reverse evacuation that nobody had ever planned for," Mayor Brown Claybar said.

Rescue crews vowed to continue the search until they had knocked on every door. They were helped by receding floodwaters, but there were constant surprises as people rowed and sloshed through towns.

The storm also took a toll in Louisiana, where hundreds of homes were flooded and power outages worsened as the state struggles to recover from Hurricane Gustav, which struck over Labor Day.

In Hackberry, La., about 15 miles from the coast, workers moved a large shrimp boat out of the highway with a bulldozer, but the team had to stop because of strong currents in the floodwaters and difficulty in seeing the roadway.

Thayne Culbertson, a disabled veteran and commercial fisherman, rode out the storm at a friend's apartment in Galveston. As someone who has been through several hurricanes, he decided to stay behind for Ike in case he could help.

Instead, help had to find him. He was picked up by a helicopter after a toppled utility pole battered the building and windows were blown out. He later boarded a bus to San Antonio.

During the storm, he said, "the sand felt like it was peeling away your skin."

© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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