Chertoff: Southeast Texas not forgotten in Hurricane Ike recovery

Marilyn Tennissen Sep. 18, 2008, 9:43am

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff views the Hurricane Ike emergency response staging area at Ford Park on Sept. 18.

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff assured area officials Sept. 18 that Southeast Texas will not be forgotten in the recovery efforts following Hurricane Ike.

Chertoff visited with county, city and emergency management officials from Jefferson, Orange and other neighboring counties at the response staging center at Ford Park.

"Our efforts are not being focused only on the big cities and the areas that are getting national media attention," Chertoff said at a press conference at Ford Park.

Hurricane Ike struck just west of Galveston on Sept. 13, leaving the island city in ruins, damage in downtown Houston and entire communities on the Bolivar Peninsula virtually wiped off the map.

In addition, portions of south and southwest Jefferson and Orange counties sustained heavy damage from storm surge and wind.

Chertoff said he had seen the devastation of small towns like Bridge City in Orange County, where waters from Lake Sabine pushed walls of salt water into homes and businesses.

The Homeland Security leader also encouraged anyone affected by the hurricane to put pressure on their insurance so that full coverage benefits will be received.

In the meeting with officials, Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames said she told Chertoff that one of the main issues facing the city is the distribution of water, ice and building materials being collected at Ford Park.

"We need to get those resources to the citizens that need them," Ames said.

With a possibility of rain in the near future, Ames said she wanted the thousands of feet of blue roofing tarps at the staging center made available to any resident willing to do the work themselves now.

The mayor also said she wants to keep the mandatory evacuation order in place until more of the city's electric power is restored.

"We realized yesterday the enormous size of the crowds at the PODS (Points of Distribution) in Beaumont," Ames said. "If we lift the evacuation and even more residents return, the problem will only be worse."

In addition, Ames said she did not want more residents to return while the city's water supply is still undrinkable from salt water intrusion.

"It's hard to tell people they need to when they have no power and no way to boil it," Ames said.

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