By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Hurricane Ike managed to strike Houston and Galveston just as we were putting the final touches on our annual Best Of Houston® issue. It made for a few fun-packed days, working without a/c and sharing the few computers the generators could power.
Sadly, though, some of our winners are probably not around to accept their laurels. We hope to hell we're wrong, of course.
Best Hip, Fun or Nostalgic Gifts — Henley Market on the Strand. Things probably aren't too hip or fun around the Strand right now. Will there someday be Ike nostalgia? Stranger things have happened.
Best Beach — Crystal Beach. Ain't no one going to be relaxing in Crystal Beach for a long time, sadly.
Last year's Best Of issue had a "Buccaneers on the Bayou" theme, which led to a bigger bunch of seaside-related picks.
Among the winners from 2007:
Best Neighborhood Place — Sonny's Place in Galveston. Unfortunately, there might not be much of a neighborhood left to have a place in.
Best Burger — T-Bone Tom's in Kemah won this coveted honor, always one of the most hotly contested categories. The Kemah Boardwalk came out of Ike better than expected (if still hit pretty hard); T-Bone Tom's is not on the Boardwalk, though, so it's hard to say when or if the burgers will return.
Body Shot — The Seabrook Beach Club won this, one of our classiest categories. No way to tell yet if female belly buttons will still be repositories of the best in fine drink.
Coffee Beans — The Purple Turtle Coffee Company in La Porte won this; whether Ike blew the Purple Turtle Coffee Company out of La Porte or not we still don't know.
Seaside Store — Gulf Coast Market at Crystal Beach. Face it, this was probably not the best year to win Best Seaside Store. Also, Nautical Antiques in Galveston was highlighted in our "Goods" section, likely to not much avail right now.— Richard Connelly
The Scene From Kemah
The street corner underneath the blue, arching sign welcoming visitors to Kemah is littered with debris washed out of people's houses: light-switch covers, roof shingles and even a sandy, sticky clump of faded photographs of a family huddled around the fireplace at Christmas, someone's memories probably lost forever.
At the corner of Bradford and 6th Street, a burger joint and a Greek restaurant are feeding business owners who've come down to the shore to begin cleaning up and assess the damage.
Jared "Chops" Watkins owns Buddy Ruff's, a bar that used to stand along the 600 block of 6th Street, 100 or so yards from the amusement park.
The afternoon of Tuesday, September 16, was the first time Watkins ventured down to check out the damage. Surge waters all but demolished the place, reducing it to a pile of wood and rubble. A few intact beer bottles and full kegs are the only signs a bar used to sit here.
"Nuts," Watkins said, getting choked up, after first seeing his bar. "I didn't think it'd be anything like this. It's completely gone." Asked how he would begin the painstaking recovery, Watkins said, "I have no idea."
A few doors down, Darlene O'Brien, clad in a T-shirt and tall rubber boots, was working on her and her husband's home furnishings store, Pat O'Brien's Eagle Nest Gallery.
She said more than two feet of water rushed into her store, ruining the floors. Her warehouse next door fell off its pylons, damaging most of the shop's stock. Tuesday, she was moving what items were left and were not covered in mildew over to a restaurant in League City to — she hoped — keep a much-needed stream of income flowing for the costly repairs.
"Is it a total loss? No," she said. "We have to withstand this, though. This is not a second business for us like it is for a lot of people down here. We have to rebuild and keep on going."
She said it was just starting to settle in how long it would take to get back on their feet.
"We'll be out of business for months," she said. "My husband's hair is turning gray by the moment." — Chris Vogel
Two Politicians, Two Approaches
You may have noticed Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Mayor Bill White projecting different attitudes during their joint press conferences in the past few days — White a bit more critical of response efforts, Emmett a bit less willing to engage in what he would presumably think to be finger-pointing or taking FEMA to task.
It was most noticeable on Sunday, September 14. Emmett — a Republican in an election race — talked about how people might want a bag of ice, but others had lost homes and the Ice People needed to be patient. Moments later, White — a Democrat looking soon to run for higher office — took the podium and sternly intoned that FEMA would be graded strictly on whether they were performing up to standard. He even engaged in some back-and-forth with FEMA officials over whether the feds had the city's list of POD recommendations.