Galveston Officials to Evacuees: Stay Away

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It took only one hour for Galveston city officials to realize that Tuesday's decision to reopen the island was a huge mistake.

The "look and leave" had ended almost as soon as it began. After spending hours in gridlocked traffic, hundreds were turned away Wednesday once they finally arrived at the only bridge onto the island.

"We could not accommodate that many people at one time," city manager Steve LeBlanc said. "We were hoping to have more of a trickle of cars than a tidal wave."

According to LeBlanc, so many people returned to the island that they were not able to make any progress with the clean up, electricity restoration and other Ike-related issues.

"We don't have adequate water at this point for just taking a shower, flushing a toilet," he said. "We're not there yet."

Evacuees were stuck in traffic for two days.

Julie Cornett, a West Virginia resident working for the The Salvation Army, was among those caught in traffic for about an hour.

"We're providing spiritual and emotional care ministries," Cornett told the Galveston Daily News. "There's nothing you can tell them except to try to help them get through it. What do you tell someone who has lost everything?"

There is talk of opening the island in pieces, but that plan is not yet ready.

Roughly 1.9 million Texans are still without electricity. CenterPoint Energy predicts that Galveston Island won't see a substantial restoration of service until early next week.

There are signs of progress in the area, however.  Cell phone service has been largely restored and for the second day, a neighborhood Kroger was open.

Ike's death toll in the U.S. is currently at 53, with 19 in Texas, and many are fearful that more victims are yet to be found.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, bodies continued to turn up in New Orleans for more than a year.

After checking on almost 6,000 people and rescuing more than 3,500 state search and rescue teams have pulled out of Galveston.

But the Galveston Island Beach Patrol is still conducting approximately 100 checks a day on storm holdouts, working from tips called in by concerned loved ones.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff visited shelters in Galveston and Houston, and he planned trips to Beaumont and Port Arthur on Thursday. He greeted family members and shook hands with volunteers, but didn't offer any false comfort.

"For the next days and weeks, it is not going to be pleasant," he said. "To be out of your house is not pleasant. To clean up the destruction after a hurricane has hit."

Source: The Associated Press, The Galveston Daily News, khou.com

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