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Local relief worker gives account of Ike’s damage

POSTED: September 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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Hurricane Ike hit more than a week ago, but many local volunteers are still in Texas trying to clean up the mess the storm left behind.

Kenny Austin, a local engineer with Georgia Power Co., is currently in Winnie, Texas, about 20 miles from Galveston, trying to reconnect power in the area.

Austin said he was taken aback by the severity of the damage caused by Ike.

He said much of the land is still under water and he has seen many dead farm animals.

"I’ve seen a couple alligators and a lot of dead cows," Austin said.

He thinks part of the reason the damage is so bad is because Texas is so flat. With out good drainage, much of the storm water has stayed stagnant.

"You can get down to the beach because there’s bridges and roads to get there but anything off the road is pretty much underwater," Austin said.

He said much of the cleanup will likely be a long-term process.

"Especially down at the beach area. They’ve got about 12 to 14 miles of (power) line down that is inaccessible. And there’s actually nothing to connect it to anyway since most of the houses were destroyed," Austin said. "Some of it was swamp land and some of it was farm land, but most of its just swamp now."

Austin said he has heard rumors that the low lying land may not even be rebuilt in favor of it remaining swamp land for a wildlife preservation.

The most surprising thing about the damage he’s witnessed in Texas is that it’s inconsistent, he said.

"It’s actually like you’re going in to a tornado zone where some of the houses were completely destroyed and the one next door wasn’t even touched," he said. "That kind of surprised me."

He said he has worked in other areas hit by hurricanes before and Hurricane Ike "is by far one of the worst ones I’ve seen."

The scene reminds him most of the damage left by Hurricane Hugo, which hit the Carolinas in 1989.

"But I think Ike is worse than Hugo," Austin said.

The group of about 80 from Georgia Power Co. has been camping out for more than a week in different parts in Texas. About 800 people total were sent from Georgia Power.

Austin spent five days in Navasota, Texas before moving onto Winnie. He said he hopes to return to Georgia by Sunday.

"I’m ready to sleep in my own bed," he said.



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