PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

September 13, 2013

5 years after Ike slammed coast, rebuilding of lives, communities continue

(Continued)

Homes ruined

Because the area was inundated with storm waters, housing stock was destroyed in those areas hardest hit.

Shaun Davis, executive director with the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission, leads the agency in charge of administrating federal housing recovery money to the three-county area in its jurisdiction: Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties.

SETRPC has already distributed Round I recovery funds, and is now disbursing Round II. Both rounds are for damage sustained in Hurricanes Ike and Dolly, a less severe storm that struck the southern-most Texas coast in 2008.

In total, $328 million in Round II funding, was allocated. Fifty-five percent of the Round II dollars are designated for housing, and 45 percent is for non-housing activities such as roads, bridges, public facilities, etc.

Round II has about $190 million designated to repair or rebuild housing damaged by the storm. Of that, the bulk, about $125 million is earmarked for single family housing throughout the region.

The remainder goes toward multi-family and single-family rentals, Davis said.

Since Ike struck, about 750 new homes have been constructed in the three-county area from Round I money during a period of  15 months.

During the five years, SETRPC has had 4,000 applications processed.

Though the process has been slow, and often arduous, much has been accomplished in the five years, Davis said.

“I am optimistic about where we are. We’ve got about 200 folks in the pipeline eligible who will shortly be moving into the construction phase, which we hope to start by the first of the year,” Davis said.

Bridge City

Perhaps no other place was harder hit than Bridge City, where the “little city under the bridge,” was swamped with storm waters.

The well publicized photo of the flooded Pizza Hut on Texas Avenue sums up the devastation suffered in Bridge City, where only 16 homes out of 3,800 were left livable.

Early on, the townspeople, assisted by hundreds of volunteers, rolled up their sleeves and began the business of recovery.

“They’ve all came back plus some,” Bridge City Manager Jerry Jones said.

Thousands of homes were gutted, remodeled and updated, 69 new homes were built and the city’s population has increased. Some of the older folks who didn’t want to go through the rebuilding process and live with the danger of future hurricanes moved out, he said, while an influx of people from the Mid-County area in neighboring Jefferson County came in, bought the homes and repaired them.

Businesses came back and new businesses came to town as well and streets and sewer and other infrastructure were repaired and updated.

“It was a struggle, I won’t say it wasn’t,” he said of the near 24-hour work days after the storm. “But it’s what we had to do to bring the people back in. The mayor made the call early to allow people back in order to get their homes repaired. Allowed trailers in here and let citizens put them in driveways in order to work on their homes. Those are the two big things that helped.”

It wasn’t just the citizens of Bridge City that made recovery possible — they had a hand from Mid-County residents who held work days in the city, businesses who opened their doors and cooked for others.

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