My mother and I talked recently with her suster, my aunt, Veronica whose home is on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas, the area hardest hit by Hurricane Ike. Veronica is broken up but holding strong emotionally, hoping to get back into her house in the next couple of weeks. Sounds optimistic to me, but she believes in her own -- and the Texans' -- resiliency.
All the familiar places and old landmarks are gone; and
eveything is covered with that grey mud. Now she cries: "It's awful.
It's just awful."
Veronica has seen her house; and things look much better for her than were anticipated at the time I wrote my post on September 14. The first floor is decimated, but not a window is broken on the second; and the roof is intact. Veronica says everthing upstairs is just as she left it.
Her house, she says, is one of two in her block still standing. The brick house across the street from her, too stiff to bend with the wind, is shattered. And the one next door is gone. Her fig and pear trees are dead; and her backyard and basement -- and the entire area -- are littered with debris, dead fish and six inches of grey mud. Anyone working on the island -- she says residents are doing their own clean up -- is adivsed to wear protective gear to avoid risking illness and infection.
"Comeaux is staying, so I know my house is safe," Veronica jokes about her young, tough Cajun friend who went in to see what was left, then refused to leave. Residents were allowed to return to work on their properties from dawn 'til dusk; then officials were forcing them off the peninsula. Comeaux said he was staying. And so, apparently, he did.
Veronica said then as time went on and the officials got to know and trust the residents, more were allowed to stay. Her son Michael had begun spending nights in her house.
Mike lost everything. His home was a trailer. It's destroyed. Among the meager belongings he found inside was a quilt his mother had made for him; and he retrieved two pairs of jeans and a belt that he found wrapped up in trees. He also found one of his cats near the top of a tree dead. He found three kittens, too, and took them back to the hotel in Beaumont, where his mom, a retired nurse, is feeding them and caring for their injuries.
Mike had been hired by the city of Beaumont to help clean up in town there; but as soon as he could get to his mom's house, she hired him. Mike works on the property, then drives the hour and a half back to the to hotel in Beaumont to clean up, then back to the house to spend the night. Armed with a portable generator, he can work by day; but there's no electricity or water or amenities in the house. Sounds scary to me for Mike to be there alone at night -- even with Comeaux nearby -- guarding the house against looting....
Veronica says it's very quiet. There are few people and no animals -- not even snakes or rats. And the lay of the land is unrecognizable. All the familiar places and old landmarks are gone; and eveything is covered with that grey mud. Now she cries: "It's awful. It's just awful."
Her son Pat spray-painted "Pat's Tries" on a piece of plywood with a message "We'll be back" and propped it up where his business had stood. But his mom wonders where he would begin to restart. Pat's house survived and is rebuildable, she says. But he lost his business, his plane, his recreational vehicle and heavy eqiupment, other property; and he lost his invesemtns in the stock market crash. Pat is 60 years old.
"But I'm gonna rebuild," she says. She'll need to be sure the house is shored up before she can move back into it and begin to make repairs on the bottom half.
After Hurricane Clara in the 1960s, when they rebuilt then, Veronica's (late) husband Pete sunk marsh anchors around the house and strung steel cables across the roof and tied them into the anchors. We believe that system saved her house this time.
"It's a hundred-year storm," she says, speculating that she should be okay for another hundred years....
by Nancy E. Thoerig 10-10-08