Storm Evacuees Are Told to Stay Away

Hurricane Ike pulverized the Gulf Coast with maximum winds of about 100 mph and left a wide swath of flooding and devastation in its wake.
By Keith B. Richburg and Joel Achenbach
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

GALVESTON, Tex., Sept. 15 -- Rescuers reached devastated corners of the Texas Gulf Coast by helicopter Monday, searching for stranded survivors and assessing the wreckage left by Hurricane Ike, while millions of people as far away as Ohio coped with the remnants of the storm.

While the body count remained relatively low, the cost in dollars and aggravation steadily grew.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) called the damage to his state "monumental" and asked an estimated 1 million evacuees to stay away for another week to allow relief workers and utility crews to do their jobs.

In low-lying Galveston, where the storm hit Saturday morning, Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas sent the same message. Officials warned of deteriorating health conditions and predicted that power would be out for a month.

And the Bolivar Peninsula, brutally scraped by Ike's winds, was now "Bolivar Island," in the words of one Coast Guard officer. The bridge that connects the spit of land with the mainland is now broken and covered with water, a helicopter flight over the area revealed.

The first rescue crews reached the peninsula Monday, bringing away 60 survivors and finding no bodies, according to the Associated Press.

Preparing to visit Texas on Tuesday, President Bush called Ike "a tough storm" and said it will "require time for people to recover."

Throughout the region, gasoline, water and tempers ran short. As Houston Mayor Bill White complained of a slow response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency's director responded that, while officials needed time on Sunday to establish a supply chain, they are now fully engaged.

"We are not only meeting, but we are exceeding -- way exceeding -- the state requests for food, water and ice," Director R. David Paulison said in Washington. "We have not been slow to deliver anything."

Oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana, which supply about half of the fuel needed in the eastern half of the United States, were not hit hard by the storm. Officials said, however, that it would be at least a week for even undamaged refineries to come back on line.

Meanwhile, a Coast Guard tour of more than 20 oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico found only minor damage.

"These platforms are in remarkable shape. They took the same hit as those houses on land, and they're still standing," Chief Warrant Officer Anthony Pesek said aboard an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter flying over the gulf.

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