Thursday September 13th is the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Ike. The second costliest storm ever with almost $30 billion in damages. Ike claimed 112 lives in the U.S. of which 37 where Texans in 2008. Most of the fatalities occurred on the Bolivar Peninsula which was flattened by an estimated 20 foot storm surge. Up to 3,000 homes in cities like Gilchrist and Port Bolivar where wiped off the face of the earth. On top of the storm surge there were 110 mph winds and 20" of rain that ravaged areas of southeast Texas. All total there were 100,000 homes flooded and 1 million customers without power in parts of greater Houston.
What's happened since is a remarkable recovery thanks to the tenacity and courage of the residents of the Bolivar peninsula. The core of the rebuilding plan was the "Bolivar Blue Print". The main idea behind this plan was to enhance emergency response, since Bolivar has no sea wall like Galveston Island and is a barrier island with no easy way out. Galveston emergency manager David Popoff says that about two thirds of Bolivar has been rebuilt. Of the 3,000 home owners that lost their homes, 1,200 have applied for federal dollars to rebuild. Another five hundred home owners have been bought out and decided to move on.
Just days after Ike struck, state highway 87 looked like a jig saw puzzle with several pieces missing. Part of this highway runs 32 miles across the length of Bolivar. Texas Department of Transportation has raised the highway a few inches, improved drainage and added K walls to lesson erosion. The K walls are like the concrete barriers that separate Houston's HOV lanes from regular traffic lanes. Bolivar has raised and rebuilt it's middle school and all but one of its four fire stations. The electrical grid on the island has been hardened and is now able to resist a major hurricane.
Today this Texas barrier island is still cut off from its neighbor to the South - Galveston. The main transportation off the island is a ferry ride away to Galveston and on to the causeway to safety. Four years after Ike Galveston's convention and visitors bureau reports 2012 as the best tourism season in island history. New attractions and improvements on Galveston continue to be the main draw for tourism. Bolivar is also experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Recent developments like Laguna Harbor, Holiday Shore and Biscayne are attracting new residents. Bolivar's Crystal Beach is drawing tourist that prefer a little more isolation than nearby Galveston. The residents of Bolivar have a blue print for success and are following their motto "building a better Bolivar ".