Soon after Hurricane Ike had raked Galveston Island on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008 and passed on to the mainland, reporters from The Daily News streamed out to report on what the storm had wrought.
The following morning’s paper — despite the travails of getting around on the island and mainland Galveston County — began to chronicle the disaster.
“All wind gauges on the island failed early during the storm, but before landfall the National Weather Service estimated the gusts would top 110 miles an hour,” one reporter noted.
“The wind toppled concrete picnic tables on the seawall, ripped roofs off homes and businesses and toppled giant oak trees on the East End.
“But the rising water wreaked the most havoc.
“Most of the area behind the seawall was covered in a minimum of 4 feet of water. In some places, the water rose to more than 10 feet.”
The 17-foot-tall seawall, on which construction began in 1902, two years after the devastating 1900 Storm, had provided some protection on the Gulf side, although Ike’s estimated 20-foot sea surge topped it. The surge overwhelmed the bay side of the island; Galveston’s historic downtown was left a wreck.
The broad-shouldered storm — nearly 600 miles wide at its extreme — wrought havoc from the Louisiana coast southwest to Corpus Christi, after earlier raking the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and Cuba.
Reporters made their tortuous way around battered Galveston Island and the mainland.
“High-profile pickup trucks braved hood-deep water on FM 2094, but the intersection with Highway 146 was completely blocked by water as high as stop signs in front of Stewart Elementary in Kemah,” a reporter found.
Other reporters scoured the internet for what information could be found there.
“Hurricane Ike disrupted electricity to roughly 2.1 million CenterPoint Energy customers and all 115,000 Gulf Coast customers of Texas-New Mexico Power, according to information posted Saturday on the companies’ Web sites,” one report read.
“CenterPoint Energy estimated it could take four weeks or longer to restore power to its customers, a process which would begin Sunday.”
No hurricane before had similarly curtailed access to the power grid.
“The impact of Hurricane Ike on our service territory has been extensive and widespread, affecting more than 90 percent of our customers, which is the largest power outage event in our company’s more than 130-year history,” a CenterPoint spokesman told a reporter who was able to reach him.
The news staff worked around the clock.
“As Hurricane Ike spiraled on toward North Texas on Saturday, the island, which took the brunt of the storm’s wide girth, entered recovery mode and remained closed to all inbound traffic, officials said,” one report read.
“Emergency crews’ search and rescue efforts focused on the West End, but the city had no immediate reports of fatalities.
“About 100 people were rescued by Saturday afternoon, authorities said. At least four were flown to local hospitals in critical condition.
“At least 17 structures have collapsed, including two apartment buildings. …”
“The causeway was in ‘bad shape,’ City Manager Steve LeBlanc said. ‘It is covered in debris, and the road has buckled in places.’
“But LeBlanc said he did not think the structural integrity of the bridge was compromised. The city was allowing people to leave the island.”
Large numbers of people in Galveston County had disregarded evacuation orders; more than a dozen paid with their lives. Others required rescue.
“City officials estimated 40 percent, or about 24,000, of the island’s residents chose to ride out the storm, which rumbled ashore with 110 mph winds and a surge of water that caught almost everyone off guard,” the paper reported.
One sharp-eyed reporter discovered a particularly telling detail in the hurricane’s wake: “On the seawall, Ike sheared in half the plaque on the statue of victims of the 1900 Storm, their arms raised in mourning.”