Monday, September 22, 2008

Galveston mayor headed to D.C. to seek federal aid

Houston Chronicle (Texas): As repair crews continue working to make this hurricane-ravaged island city inhabitable for the thousands of residents set to return this week, the mayor was headed to Washington to seek more than $2 billion in emergency federal aid. The final price tag to fully restore Galveston after Hurricane Ike plowed ashore early Sept. 13 and displaced most of the 57,000 or so residents is still unknown.

"We haven't even begun to figure that out yet," Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc said Monday — two days before residents were to be allowed back to a hometown sorely lacking in basic services. Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas, along with officials from the Port of Galveston and the University of Texas Medical Branch will meet with a Senate ad hoc committee Tuesday to seek $2.3 billion in emergency appropriations. Galveston is hoping to get nearly $1.2 billion; UTMB, the city's hospital, about $600 million; and the port about $500 million. "We hope the federal government will step up to the plate," LeBlanc said.

Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm, battered Galveston with 110 mph winds and a 12-foot storm surge, flooding homes and destroying businesses. The storm has been blamed for 61 deaths, including 26 in Texas. Fearing some people were swept out to sea, authorities have searched some coastal counties since after the storm hit but have had difficulties reaching certain areas.

On Monday, teams with cadaver dogs found no bodies as they continued searching for victims in mounds of debris in Chambers County, off Trinity Bay, said Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesman Aaron Reed. After traveling by boat or all-terrain vehicles, teams sometimes encountered 20-foot-tall piles containing everything from tree limbs, marsh grass and lumber to mattresses and golf clubs, he said. "We don't have a solid list of who's missing or where they were when they went missing," Reed said….

Aerial view of Pelican Island, an island off the northeastern end of Galveston Island. Pelican Island was largely built up by material dredged from the Galveston Ship Channel and the Houston Ship Channel by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the source of the photograph). Wikimedia Commons

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