Galveston’s efforts to recover by summer
As is common knowledge in Houston, a major hurricane seemingly named after a famous rock ‘n’ roll guitarist and wife-beater, Ike Turner swept through Galveston last September.
Hurricane Ike devastated the beachside city best known for its vibrant, tourist-friendly amenities, and for being the only place within driving distance from Houston where you might have the opportunity to be stung by a jellyfish the size of a Ford Taurus.
The city’s inhabitants, despite sustaining severe damage to their infrastructure and way of life, exhibited exactly the same sort of resolve and can-do gumption seen in post-Katrina. They banded together, pitched in as a community and drafted Reggie Bush.
That is, of course, a humorous lie, but hurricane reconstruction is no joke, judging by the hundreds of thousands of pictures with a Federal Emergency Management Agency tag that the public helpfully posted to its Flickr accounts.
The pictures feature FEMA personnel performing their standard duties which consist, judging from the photos, of two primary tasks: standing around frowning at things that are broken and standing around smiling encouragingly at the owners of the broken thing.
FEMA is contemplating adding an institutional Twitter account, and it can be safely assumed that when they do, it too will alternate between those two activities.
It is a common misconception that FEMA physically performs tasks such as turning on water and power, rebuilding roads, bridges, etc. But it turns out that those are union jobs, subcontracted to workers, who are less qualified in the fields of standing and frowning.
Encouragingly, the University of Texas Board of Regents recently voted to keep the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. The medical branch is the island’s largest single employer according to a Nov. 18 Houston Chronicle report.
Many see UTMB’s continued presence in Galveston, along with its $1 billion plan for renovation and revitalization that may create literally thousands of middle-class jobs, not just as a cornerstone of economic success for the city, but also as a great way to store lethal biological agents.
KUHF Houston Public Radio News reported the medical branch has sustained severe financial losses, due to damaged buildings, patient evacuation and equipment losses, with some estimating costs in excess of $700 million – the average yearly bonus of an AIG executive.
Perhaps the best model for improvement in the coming renovations is the Galveston National Laboratory, which sustained no damages more severe than ‘a few damp rugs,’ fortunate for everyone in the southern half of Texas.
This structure houses Biological Safety Level 4 (BSL-4) facilities, which are used to store terrifying and dangerous substances such as Ebola and Smallpox .
Retaining and renovating UTMB is one major step forward for the city, but tourism is the lifeblood of this beachside town and Galveston officials (including Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas and a member of the city’s finance commission whose actual nickname is ‘Shrub’) have been encouraged by the recent spring break turnout.
One can bet that in less than a week, more than $36 million was generated by the sale of beer and condoms to college students. This is nearly enough to offset the $38 million cost of hiring local crews, accompanied by earnestly frowning FEMA employees, to clean the empty beer cans and used condoms off the beach.
Mayor Thomas hopes to finish the clean up in time for the summer tourist season, which she said is a great time to relax on the beach and swim leisurely in the ocean, assuming proper precautions are taken against sunburn and giant jellyfish.
Kevin Cook is a creative writing junior and may be reached at [email protected].