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Coastal town faces long recovery

BRIDGE CITY, Texas (BP)–In Bridge City, a Texas community near the Louisiana border, residents are just beginning to dig out from Hurricane Ike. Much of Bridge City was underwater when the storm surge pushed water from the Gulf of Mexico through the coastline’s marshlands.

“That’s our sea wall,” resident Ricky Trahan said, pointing to the marsh less than a mile from his home. “The surge was about six feet.” Trahan works for one of the nearby oil refineries.

Evacuated residents returned to homes filled with mud, sludge and sewage, and yards covered with dead fish.

Mayor Kirk Roccaforte estimated only 14 homes in the city were unaffected by the surge. Most don’t have flood insurance.

“My mother has lived here since before the town was called Bridge City,” Trahan said. “It’s never flooded before.”

Trahan is one of the lucky ones. He has flood insurance. He pointed to four of his neighbors’ houses. None of them have flood insurance.

The recovery work is hard, but the residents are tougher still.

“The town’s been able to pull together and do what we need to do,” Trahan said.

“My father was a carpenter,” said Patty Franklin, pointing to the house where Southern Baptist disaster relief mud-out crews were working. “He built this house — all the cabinetry and built-ins.” Franklin’s father isn’t around to see his handiwork covered with black sludge — he died in January.

Franklin added, “This has been a tough year for my mom,” Joann Goodwin, who was staying at her daughter’s house in Houston when Ike made its furious way to shore, filling her home with water.

“We’ve been down here three times since the storm and haven’t made a dent,” Franklin said. “And then the mud-out crew showed up. These guys have made a big difference.”

Disaster relief volunteers from Texas and South Carolina helped clear out the house and ripped out the soggy molding, sheetrock and insulation.

“We’re taking out their whole life here,” said Charlie Satterfield, a leader with the South Carolina Baptist disaster relief recovery team.

“Mrs. Goodwin’s been sitting out in the driveway, and we’ve been bringing things by her so she can decide what to keep and what to throw away,” said Ann Gaskins, a disaster relief volunteer with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Most of it is unsalvageable.

“They’ve lost everything they have, and we’re just trying to help them out,” Gaskins said. “I love being able to help homeowners get a fresh start and help get them on their way to rebuilding their home.”

As workers in yellow hats continued to carry out debris from the house, Franklin carefully picked through her mother’s jewelry cabinet, looking for pieces worth saving — items like her father’s wedding ring.

Residents of Bridge City have been without power for three weeks now. So the Salvation Army canteen in the parking lot of First Baptist Church is a welcome site.

“We’re serving about 3,000 meals a day,” said Carole Crosby, a Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteer from Roanoke, Va.

Crosby and her team have handed out a steady stream of meals all day as people break from the hard work of cleaning out the mud and muck.

B.J. McGee drove from nearby Orange, Texas, to pick up lunch for her family. Her trailer was destroyed by the storm surge. She and her husband are now living with her son in Orange.

“We are so thankful for the hot meals,” McGee said. “This has been a big help to us.”

Lori Thomas of Nederland, Texas, picked up meals for friends in town who she’s been helping. “We are not victims, we are survivors,” she said. “We really are so blessed, and we are thankful for Southern Baptists and the work they’re doing.”

Coletta Hubbell, a disaster relief volunteer from Gould, Ark., first came to Texas with a feeding unit. When FEMA closed the feeding site, Hubbell stayed behind to help out in any way she could. She’s been answering the phone at First Baptist Church in Bridge City, taking requests for mud-out and chain saw units.

“I see this hurricane as an opportunity for God to show His mighty hand,” Hubbell said. “And it’s an amazing opportunity for Christians to allow God to use them to bless others.”

Ike’s bitter trail of destruction will linger for months across hundreds of miles in Texas and Louisiana coastline. But residents of Bridge City are hopeful.

“I’m looking forward to next summer,” Ricky Trahan said, “when we can say ‘Remember the flood we had last year.'”
Carol Pipes is editor of On Mission magazine. To donate to Southern Baptist disaster relief, call toll-free 866-407-6262 or visit www.namb.net.

    About the Author

  • Carol Pipes

    Carol Pipes is director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources.

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