Galveston regained a sense of normalcy Thursday after a brush with a not-very-intimidating tropical storm.
Tropical Storm Cindy swirled erratically around the Gulf Coast of Texas Wednesday night, dumping rain all the way from the Houston area to the Louisiana border. But despite a foreboding couple of days — Cindy had escalated quickly into a tropical storm before bumping into the Texas coastline — the dire worst-case scenarios pitched by some local officials didn’t come to pass.
By early Thursday afternoon, sunshine had returned to Galveston. Large puddles were pretty much the only reminder that a large storm had passed through.
Consider Bolivar Peninsula, which was under a voluntary evacuation through noon on Thursday. Officials had warned that both outlets from the peninsula — a bridge on State Highway 87 on the north side and a car ferry to Galveston on the south side — could be cut off. Neither happened, at least not for long.
An employee at the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management confirmed to the Houston Press that the ferry service between Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston experienced delays during the storm but was never actually shut down. (She wouldn’t give her name as she did not have permission to speak with reporters.)
It’s unclear if Rollover Bridge — the stretch of State Highway 87 that connects Bolivar Peninsula to the mainland town of Gilchrist to the north — was submerged at any point during Cindy. The bridge is sometimes flooded during even minor storms. But by Thursday afternoon the bridge was open to vehicle traffic. A few people stood along its sides, fishing.
The Galveston beaches were relatively empty Thursday morning, as the weather, though less dangerous than on Wednesday, was ironically also less pleasant. A cool rain drizzled on the island until around noon. Large puddles remained on the beach and parts of the seawall.
But despite the small crowds, the ambience on Galveston Thursday was like that of any other weekday afternoon. Families built sand castles and played in the water, interrupted by the occasional lifeguard whistle.
The Neves and Stoker families, from Odessa, were up early Thursday after having their vacation briefly interrupted by Cindy. One of the fathers, Gene Neves, said he’d gotten to the beach at 6 a.m. to collect seashells.
“I didn’t have to fight anybody for them,” he said with a smile.
As the families moved toward the waves near some caution tape, Daniel Fleming, a Beach Patrol lifeguard, blew his whistle at them. A native Galvestonian, Fleming was off-duty on Wednesday when the storm hit, but said the wind and waves were still “seriously strong.”
Asked about the storm, he said, “It was definitely a red-flag day” — a reference to the Beach Patrol color-coded warning system, for which the color red symbolizes potentially hazardous swimming conditions.
Still, locals and tourists agreed that Cindy had been no big deal. By around midday Thursday, other tourists who were caught in Galveston for the storm started streaming out of motels, ready for a typical summer day on the beach.
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An eerie quiet remained in most parts of Bolivar Peninsula on Thursday. On some parts of the peninsula, whole rows of houses had their storm shutters closed and their parking spaces empty. But it was difficult to tell if that was owing to the voluntary evacuation or to the large number of temporary vacation rentals in the Galveston area.
At Crystal Beach, one of the main communities on Bolivar Peninsula, there were a fair number of tourists out today. One of them was Randall Briggs, who’d come from Dallas for a vacation with his family.
Briggs had been in a beach rental on Bolivar. He said the storm wasn’t bad. The main concern he had now was the still-turbulent seas. He was trying to catch shark and redfish, and the weather conditions were impeding that goal, he said.
“I wish the wind would die down,” he said. “It makes it difficult to kayak my baits out.”