Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lessons From Ike

pic: Bolivar Peninsula after Ike. If Ike had hit here instead this may have been a picture of North Padre Island!

There has been much talk lately about the lessons to be learned from the disaster of hurricane Ike. In the aftermaths of Katrina and Rita similar discussions were heard. It always seems that as the disaster fades into history the urgency declines.
Exactly what these lessons are largely depends upon whom is talking.
A lot of attention here locally is focused on the 350 foot setback rule and how that is going to effect some existing structures on Mustang and Padre Islands.
There is one overriding conclusion to be reached concerning development on these barrier islands and that is; don't do it!
Development on or near the beach or in the dunes interferes with the natural cycles of beach, dune and sandbar formation and causes the beach to erode much more quickly than it would in natural conditions. That, combined with slowly rising sea levels, will eventually cause much of the islands to be under water. This will put more and more existing structures in violation of the Texas Open Beaches Act.
Likewise the building of channels and jetties and sea walls create accelerated sand depletion is some areas and exaggerated accretion in others.
The barrier islands are the first and best line of defense our City of Corpus Christi and the surrounding communities have against hurricanes. Wetlands also help absorb the flooding from storm surge. Because of their importance preservation of these natural resources should have a top priority.
Other lessons never seem to be learned. Hurricane prone areas need better evacuation plans and there is a need for places to evacuate to! Many cannot afford to stay in motels and hotels for the duration of their refugee status. There should be emergency shelters created and placed all through the south and east which stand ready and equipped with food, water and other necessary items in storage for use when needed.
Telephone and power lines should be placed underground in secure and weather impervious protection such as flexible PVC or some suitable material. Building codes need to be tougher than they are now and older homes should be brought under code requirements.
There is a need for better co-ordination between FEMA, local and state departments concerned with public safety.
Undoubtedly there are other good ideas as well and it is high time to consider the future storms which are sure to come.
We need to think ahead and not just react to storms.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

North Padre Island The Day Before Ike

These pics were taken by my friend Guy LeRoux on North Padre Island the day before Hurricane Ike came ashore near Galveston.
The Corpus Christi area escaped serious damage but there are reports of at least one person being swept away by waves from the jetties along the Packery Channel.
These pictures illustrate how high tides inundated the beach and even swept debris up to the access roads.
In past hurricanes huge cuts were made through the barrier islands and saw water pour into the Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi Bay and other bays flooding low lying areas.
It should by now be clear that the extreme development of barrier islands is a bad idea. The barrier islands serve as the first line of defense for coastal cities. Increased development does damage to the beaches, sand dunes and wetland areas. That should be curtailed and a retreat from the beach movement should begin which, over time, would end beach development and restore barrier islands and wetlands to their natural states.
This would, in the long run, be a financial boon as well as increase protection from storms.
It is very likely that tourists would flock to such a large, natural coastal area. That could offer a desirable alternative as an eco-tourism destination rather than the emulation of the over choked development of a South Padre Island or Miami Beach.

Galveston West Beach Fire As Ike Approaches

Ike has come ashore in the morning hours and is moving inland. The extent of damage is not yet known.
This pic was on the internet yesterday and shows a home blazing as high tides and waves pound the beach front homes on Galveston's West Beach.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Labor Day, Storm In The Gulf!

(Click on pic for larger image! Do it!)

Photo by David Harvey

My friend Cliff Schlabach sent me this picture taken on Labor Day in Port Aransas. This was surf kicked up by Hurricane Gustav. There is an old saying I have heard from time to time from old coastal watchers; "Labor Day, storm in the Gulf." It was sure true this year!