Kemah Comes Face To Face With What Ike Hath Wrought

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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.

Tuesday afternoon is the first time Watkins has 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 says, 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 says, “I have no idea.”

A few doors down, Darlene O’Brien, clad in a t-shirt and tall rubber boots is working on her and her husband’s home furnishings store, Pat O’Brien’s Eagle Nest Gallery

She says 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. Today, she is moving what items are left and are not covered in mildew over to a restaurant in League City to hopefully keep a much-needed stream of income flowing for the costly repairs.

“Is it a total loss? No,” she says. “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 says it’s just starting to settle in today how long it will take to get back on their feet.

“We’ll be out of business for months,” she says. “My husband’s hair is turning gray by the moment.”

-- Chris Vogel

Click here for a slideshow from Daniel Kramer...

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