It could be the bad economy and high gas prices, it could be the oil spill that's avoided Texas (so far), it could be that the relatively cold winter had people yearning for the beach -- whatever it was, Galveston had a banner Memorial Day Weekend.
Peter Davis, chief of the Galveston Beach Patrol, tells Hair Balls "We couldn't ask for anything more -- huge, huge crowds and very few incidents."
Davis says the number of visitors for the entire weekend pretty much matched last year, when the city put on a big push to open its first post-Ike summer.
Hotels were pretty much at 100 percent occupancy, Davis says.
"I saw a boost in the number of plates from Louisiana and Mississippi, so it may be that people were trying to get away from the oil," he said.
There were only four people transported to the hospital over the weekend, which isn't much at all he says. (There were, officially, 59 lost kids, which he officially categorized as "a shitload.")
The rest of May was busier than usual, so signs point to a big summer for the island -- as long as the hurricane gods don't mess with it.
And if they do?
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Well, we've gotten a spate of hurricane-season press releases and stories; the award for scariest goes to this one, apparently from an Iranian news outlet, which asks us to imagine a guy from Pasadena named "Beauregard Dubois ('Beau' for short)" who bought a condo on "the sandbar known as 'Galveston Island.'" (Beau's originally from Lafayette.)
There's a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf, something which Beau doesn't seem to think much about until he steps out on his Galveston balcony.
The day is hot and humid. As soon as Beau steps out onto his balcony, it hits him like a sledgehammer. Whew, is it hot out there! Tugging at the collar of his already sweat-darkened cowboy shirt, he squints up at the sun. It's reflecting off water as still as a sea of glass; but he has heard that there's a hurricane hovering out in the gulf. In fact, the National Weather Service has just issued a new bulletin. The hurricane watch has become a warning. It looks like the big squall is heading straight for Galveston. Beau hears the television anchor through the open balcony door. It looks like this storm is now packing winds of 165 mph. That's a lot worse than Ike, which hit Galveston back in '08. Beau talks it over with Juanita and they decide to 'get out of Dodge.' They've got plenty of time, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
After securing the condo, he slings the hastily packed suitcases onto the backseat and she brings out a thermos of strong, chicory-spiked Cajun coffee. They'll be back home in Pasadena long before the storm hits. Beau wheels out onto Seawall Blvd. and heads for the I45 Bridge.
Four hours later they're stuck at the top of the bridge, which has become a veritable parking lot of thousands of stranded motorists. An 18-wheeler has overturned blocking traffic and according to hearsay, the other side of the hump, the mainland side, is already flooded and impassable. As the screeching gale-force wind shakes and buffets the little car, Juanita, white-faced and trembling fumbles in her bag for her rosary. An extra-strong gust of wind slams the car, which is in the outside lane, against the guardrail.
Enough of this, Beau decides. If that rail were to give way, the car could be blown right off the bridge and into the gulf. Wrestling the door open, he is immediately assaulted by gale force winds and driving rain that whips and lashes at his face like a million tiny needles. Nevertheless, he manages to get out of the car and hauls Juanita out as well. But even the bridge doesn't seem solid anymore. It is swaying and groaning as the powerful surf slams into the pilings far below. He sees that other people have gotten out of their vehicles, as well and are huddling together in the center of the bridge for maximum safety. A piece of the guardrail ahead suddenly gives way and a car sails over the side and into the void. Suddenly, above the howling wind, they hear an ominous crack followed by an ear-splitting boom. The concrete beneath their feet heaves and shakes. A section of the bridge has collapsed and Beau realizes that he has made a terrible mistake. The stranded motorists cling to one another in abject terror.
Yikes. Better rethink those Galveston weekends. On the days when there's a Cat 5 storm headed there.