Disasters are often followed by reports of damages to the built environment—the cost of buildings, roads, bridges, electricity lines, stores, schools and hospitals. These of course follow the death toll and economic and social impacts of citizen’s lives. It was not different with Hurricane Ike whose 20 feet surge left one of the hugest damages ever. The stories of how it impacted other things for the benefit do not make much of the well-known histories. For Gene Straatmeyer a resident of Bolivar Peninsula— which was most hit by the storm, the story is not just about how destructive it was:
“When I saw my house three weeks after the storm, I was glad it stood but I knew it was time for change. Now five years later, I have learned that for me to enjoy the beauty of this place, there is a cost to bear. I love this place and am here to stay, but I have to invest more than I had imagined. The hurricane has greatly affected our lives but not only in a bad way.”
Gene understands that the story does not end with just the damages but also what it contributes to the future. It has brought with it new measures in structural development, social relationships and insurance holding. It is a major step to the lessening of the impact of future disasters.
With the winds and waters sweeping away taking away people’s lives and property the storm made it to be one of the costliest in the history of America. According to FEMA:
The combination of surge and high waves were particularly destructive in areas along the
Gulf of Mexico coast and parts of the Galveston Bay shoreline, particularly Bolivar Peninsula, TX (where Gene lives). Preliminary numbers showed that of the 5,900 buildings standing on Bolivar Peninsula before Ike, approximately 3,600 were destroyed, 400 sustained major damage (likely substantially damaged), 1,800 sustained some damage but were not substantially damaged, and only 100 were undamaged or sustained only minimal damage. (Impact of Ike)
The ones that stood weren’t mostly just lucky, they were usually inches higher than the ones that went, just a little further the coast than the other, and a little more reinforcements in the ground. One of the surviving houses was Gene’s house. He was one of the first to go back soon after Bolivar was made accessible. He knew my house had stood because he had seen the satellite images posted on a website, “I just didn’t know what condition it was”, he explains. Gene was so glad to that his house stood strong and nothing damaged except the entire garage swept away. His sons house however was gone, his daughters too. They were both less than a half a mile away. Many others around were gone too. “I felt guilty” he continues, “I knew it was not going to be easy to live again with everyone around in that much trouble.” What was different between his house and the others gone was just the height. The base of his house was just two inches higher than what was regarded the standard height. On all windows...