"Gloom and Doom" Post-Ike

October 1st, 2008

Other big news about the economy and politics have taken Hurricane Ike’s impact off of front pages and put it out of mind of many Americans, but the vast destruction and devastation of the storm is just beginning to be assessed.

The storm attacked Texas’ already-stressed upper coast, writes the Houston Chronicle today, noting that development, rising seas and sinking land have conspired to wreak havoc on Galveston and beyond. Here’s an assessment from the Chron article:

  • The storm “wash[ed] debris into Galveston Bay and the Gulf…imperiling animals, fish and plants by pouring excessive amounts of saltwater into marshes.”
  • Already-threatened beaches were reduced or erased, with “as much as 200 feet of beach vanishing in some areas.”
  • “The surge pushed saltwater into freshwater habitats far from the coast and destroyed grasses for grazing cattle and other vegetation.”
  • ‘”This will have a huge impact on the birds,” said Gina Donovan, executive director of the Houston Audubon Society. “The warblers eat so many berries that the juice gets all over their feathers. It’s like watching a child eat ice cream. Without the food to fatten them for a 600-mile journey, the birds will starve and perish.”‘
  • “[T]he debris and untreated sewage in Galveston Bay and the bayous around Greater Houston are sucking the oxygen out of the water, leaving little or none for marine life. The carcasses of carp and other fish could be seen in Buffalo Bayou last week.”
  • “The city of Houston estimated that as much as 5 million gallons[of raw sewage]…flowed into the bayous because of Ike-related power outages.”

Is there a silver lining? There wasn’t a huge oil or chemical spill, say experts.

What can help now? Some rain. Chron quotes Jim Sutherlin of the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area on how salt water from the surge is affecting things inland: “That exasperates everything that needs freshwater,” he said. “If we don’t get a lot of rain soon, then it’s gloom and doom for fish, insects and some mammals.”

Whether or not the rains come soon, there’s still enough gloom and doom from Ike. As other news bumps Ike off the front page, hurricane recovery — for habitat and for humans — is still very important.