Posted by: cmtalbert | September 13, 2008

The Texas Gulf Coast is a Mess

The Bridge City State Bank is an iconic building for those of us that grew up there.  It sits on the corner of Ferry and Roundbunch, and this gives you a really clear idea of just how much water we’re talking about when we say that BC flooded.  Here’s another picture that you won’t really appreciate unless you’re a local.  You’re looking at the Cow Bayou Bridges.  Note what’s missing.

The little drawbridge is completely underwater

The little drawbridge is completely underwater

So, in all this, I do have a little bit of good news.  The water is coming down pretty quickly.  And not everywhere is completely submerged.  In fact, some areas had no flooding at all.  I listened to the update at 9PM CDT and I’ll go through the highlights of each part of the Golden Triangle that they talked about.

* Orange – The levees in Cove overtopped.  Downtown flooded.  There are pictures of 16th street showing several feet of water.

* Nederland, Groves, Port Neches – There was some flooding in Central Gardens in Nederland.  Otherwise, there is some wind damage.

* Beaumont – Since the newscasters are based in Beaumont, they spent a lot of time covering that.  They say that their impression of Beaumont is that it looks just like it did after Rita.  They expressed some surprise that there were still enough trees to be knocked down in the storm.  They showed several scenes of downed power lines, trees that fell on houses, several of which were in west Beaumont.  There wasn’t any major flooding in Beaumont.  The Churches chicken sign flew across Phelan and Dowlen and smashed into the Lancaster and Cornwall apartments.  Good thing my friend Aaron no longer lives there.  No one was injured by the flying sign.

* Winnie has quite a bit of wind damage, once again.  A corrugated metal roof is wrapped around the I-10 overpass.

* Labell was flooded when the Hildebrandt bayou came over its banks.  The sheriff’s office rescued the residents.

* Port Acres – The levees held, but just barely.  As one resident put it, “you can see there how much they can take.  If a three comes, I’m out of here”.  Even though the levees did hold, there was still some flooding on the south (I think) side of highway 73.  There is flooding at the Taylor Bayou bridge and it was impassable this afternoon.

* A tornado damaged the Texas A&M agriculture research station on Highway 90 north of Beaumont.

* Keema – The boardwalk is destroyed.  There was severe flooding.  It doesn’t look good for this little town.

* Galveston – Many homes are decimated.  It’s not clear how bad the damage is.  The national guard moved into the city this afternoon.  I-45 is blocked to all other traffic.

* Port Bolivar, Crystal Beach – It is completely unknown how these areas fared.

* Houston – Parts of southern Houston flooded, I’ve heard.  Windows were blown out of several buildings downtown.  Reliant stadium was damaged, Sunday’s game will obviously be postponed.

* Rose City and Vidor – Along old highway 90, they showed footage of homes with about three to four feet of water in them.

* Sabine Pass – This is by far the saddest note.  There are still people in Sabine Pass.  Sabine Pass is still completely inaccessible, under what people are estimating to be eight to ten feet of water.  The Port Arthur fire department will attempt a rescue early Sunday.

They recommend that people boil water before drinking it.  DPS troopers are moving into the area to prevent people from returning prematurely.  There is nothing open, and no power in the entire triangle.  There are no traffic lights, no street lights, no sewer, and very little water.  There is an 8PM curfew in effect, and they request that people remain in their homes.

Speaking with my dad and my uncle, I learned that in order to turn back on the power after a flood, each residence must be checked by the power company to ensure that the water is no longer in the lines.  This way when the power comes back on, it won’t start fires.  That means that places like Bridge City are going to be without power a long time.  There is no word yet of when the power might come back on.  Entergy is saying that Ike was worse than Rita in terms of damage to the electric grid.  After Rita, it took seven weeks to get electricity back in Bridge City.

My dad hypothesizes that power may come back on in Groves and Nederland first, since there was little flooding there.  If that’s the case, those Orange county folks with relatives “over the bridge” may want to consider moving in with them for a while until services are restored.

President Bush declared the area a disaster, enabling the hulking apparatus of FEMA to make its way into the area to help.  Unfortunately for people in the Golden Triangle, FEMA can do nothing until it audits the area itself.  And if the location of the national guard is any indication of the Fed’s priorities, they will start in Galveston.

Fortunately, local officials are performing search and rescue operations in Orange county.  As far as I have heard and read, there has not been very many lives lost in this storm.  That is a huge blessing, especially when you consider how many people did not evacuate this time.

We will see how this unfolds in the days to come.


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