Ike-Battered Galveston Allows Residents In

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Thousands of Galveston residents made their way back to the island this morning to take stock and see for themselves what Hurricane Ike had done to their homes.

Interstate 45 was backed up for 14 miles from the entrance to the only causeway to the island city, but traffic moved smoothly and there were few problems.

Many Galveston residents haven't been back since fleeing Hurricane Ike more than 11 days ago and many didn't know what to expect.

"When you come back it's not going to be the same Galveston Island you left," said Galveston Mayor Pro Tem Danny Weber. "It's been damaged. It's been broken."

Ike battered Galveston with 110 mph winds and a 12-foot storm surge as a Category 2 hurricane. At least 61 deaths, including 26 in Texas, were attributed to Ike.

About 45,000 of the city's 57,000 residents fled Galveston Island, about 50 miles southeast of Houston.

Galveston still only has limited medical, power, water and sewer system capabilities. Residents were urged to get tetanus shots and rat bait before arriving on the island.

Officials advised residents who planned to stay to be self sufficient and bring their own food, water and gasoline. There is also a nightly curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Electricity and natural gas are being restored in Galveston, but City Manager Steve LeBlanc said those services in each home will have to be inspected by the city before being allowed to be turned on again.

CenterPoint Energy Inc. reported on Tuesday that 73 percent of its 2.26 million customers now had electricity.

Entergy Texas reported that 89 percent of its nearly 393,000 customers affected by Hurricane Ike had power again.

On Tuesday, Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas and other city leaders were in Washington, D.C., to ask lawmakers for nearly $2.5 billion in emergency funds.

Sources: The Associated Press, The Houston Chronicle, Galveston County Daily News

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