Ike Damages Students’ Homes; TX Families Evacuate Safely

When Hurricane Ike struck southern Houston and Galveston, Texas on Saturday, September 13, Charles Ganner ’10, a Houston resident, found out that a seven-foot long branch with a six-inch diameter had gone through his living room window. Power returned to some Houston residents Tuesday night for the first time after Hurricane Ike swept along the Gulf Coast. Galveston and southern Houston suffered severe damages from the 110 mph winds, storm surges of up to 15 feet, and endless rain. Ganner’s family was not the only Phillips Academy family affected by the storm. The family of Isabella Uria ’10 evacuated to Austin before Hurricane Ike struck and managed to salvage a photo album and their “evacuation box,” where they keep many important documents like birth certificates and social security cards. Uria had moved to Houston from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “After Katrina we had to search through everything. We learned our lesson.” Uria said that it was hard to contact her family members because the phone lines were tied up. Uria and her family text messaged in order to communicate. “Ike was a pretty big blow to me, because when I left New Orleans, I thought I was moving to a place where hurricanes couldn’t affect me anymore,” Uria said. “A hurricane is an awful experience, but it is even worse when you don’t know what you’re coming back to.” Amanda Brisco ’10 said that the back fence of her southern Houston home was completely torn down and that a big tree by her garage was uprooted, barely missing her kitchen window. “The jungle gym slide is gone too,” she said. “My little sister’s sad about that.” The hurricane fell just short of the qualifications for a category-three storm when it hit early on Saturday morning. However, it still left two million people in the state of Texas without electricity and destroyed buildings, according to National Geographic. National Geographic also said that Ike created a projected $22 billion in damages. Although meteorologists were adamant about the great threat that Hurricane Ike posed, residents of Houston and Galveston were relatively unfazed by the prospect of the hurricane. Only about 30,000 of over two million Houston residents chose to evacuate. City officials instructed resistant Galveston residents to write their names and social security numbers on their arms. Ganner believes that people were discouraged from evacuating because of the hassle of dealing with highway congestion, lines for gasoline, and the disorganization that results during an evacuation. “After people saw the media’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina, many Houston residents chose to evacuate in anticipation of Hurricane Rita, even though nothing really happened,” Ganner said, noting that Rita was the first time that he remembers his family taking serious precautions against a storm. “[The evacuation] was just a mess.” Jessica Moreno ’10, from Houston, said that Texas has not experienced a bad hurricane in over 20 years, but she believes that people still take the necessary precautions to prepare themselves. Aniebiet Ekpa ’11, also from Houston, agreed with Moreno. “[Hurricanes] happen every season,” she said. “People expect hurricanes.” In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, Texans have struggled with skyrocketing gasoline prices, storm surges and home damage. Ganner said that his parents bought a generator and his neighbors had been sharing gasoline and generators as they waited for the power to be turned on. Mandatory curfews are still in effect in Galveston and Houston in an effort to keep people safe and prevent looting, and many students, like Moreno’s younger sister, have a week off from school.