September 16th, 2008
09:19 AM ET

Ike from the perspective of Galveston Vagabonds

Rick Bastien
CNN Media Coordinator

I found Nanc (pronounced 'Nance') on the Galveston seawall, walking her guard dog on the sunny Monday morning after the storm. “Be careful,” she warned, “he ain’t too friendly.” Nanc showed me her truck, where she keeps piles of blankets, biology books, and a mess of other unique items she has collected. Nanc didn’t tell me she was homeless, but she said she lives in her truck. She also stayed in her truck in one of the most dangerous locations to be during a hurricane—across the street from the Galveston seawall.

Why didn’t she leave? Because she had no money and no where to go and no gas to get there. Nanc is currently a Waffle House waitress, but says she wants to go back to school at UTMB, University of Texas Medical Branch. She was eagerly awaiting payday the week that Ike was swirling in the Gulf of Mexico.

During the storm she says “it turned completely black, you couldn’t see five feet in front of you.” But Nanc still braved the elements and even left her truck during the storm because she heard a car honking and went to check to see if anyone needed help. She wasn’t injured and her car avoided the flood waters; Nanc says she is ‘waiting for school to start’ now that the storm has passed.

Down the road from where I met Nanc sat three older men in a grocery store parking lot. Larry McCrea and his friends Tim and Mike couldn’t tell me much about their homes or where exactly they were from, but the also didn’t tell me they were homeless—maybe they are just ‘home-free,’ the same way Splenda is sugarfree.

The three men reminded me of characters out of a Jack Kerouac novel, wily and eccentric and wholeheartedly American. The three men weren’t from Galveston, but decided to come because they’ve never been through a hurricane before. Larry McCrea thought about leaving, but said that “I talked to God, and he told me to go back.”

Larry boasted about surviving the storm, saying, “We spent the night here completely unscathed confronting the storm face to face without any shelter other than our vehicles and we came out completely unscathed.”

Larry told me he was a minister, but worked for no church. But he also acknowledged the suffering going on around him, and he asked for both God and the government to step in and make the lives better for the people of Galveston.

Filed under: Hurricane Ike
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Melissa R, Louisiana

    I live in Lake Charles and we weren't under a mandatory evacuation, sadly we have residents with 6ft of water in their homes. I appreciate all the attention that the victims in Texas are receiving but a lot of us here in Louisiana are suffering a double whammy, having just recovered from Hurricane Rita in 2005. The city of Cameron, La is still under water, I wish we'd get some of the national attention that Texas is getting. We didn't receive much in 2005 because Katrina hit New Orleans one month prior to Rita landing here and this time it's no different. Please give the citizens of SouthWest Louisiana the same type of coverage. We need help just as badly as those in Texas and most of our citizens heeded the warnings and left.

    September 16, 2008 at 9:18 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    I feel for the waitress and hope she gets back to school soon. From what you have written I understand that the 3 men were not from Galveston but went there to ride out the storm. I don't understand why anyone would do this if they had gas to get somewhere else. I'm glad they survived but they could have easily lost their lives and cost someone else their life in trying to save them. Mandatory evacuations should be just that – mandatory. If the mandatory part is not enforced then it just is a recommendation to evacuate.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 16, 2008 at 9:16 pm |
  3. GF, Los Angeles

    I can't imagine having to stay and weather such a storm because I didn't have the money to leave. I hope all 3 above find jobs and pull themselves out of the homeless situation they're in.

    September 16, 2008 at 6:55 pm |
  4. Peter

    The circumstances are real. The cost is immeasurable; in lives, both risked and lost. Property that once was, is all but a memory to many. Personal items to cherish and pass on are gone. What remains is, what was in the beginning. How many times do we need to witness the consequences of living along coastal communites. Yet, for some attractive reason, people have to live on the edge of disaster. Whether it's the coast, wilderness areas prone to wildfire or along flood plains and areas subject to flash flooding. Each disaster captures the attention of the american people (and the world) and we share your pain and suffering. In the end, everyone donates and sacrifices in one way or another. Considering the recent disasters our country has endured, the costs are staggering and continue to rise. There's no quick and simple answer, and it will take years of change to begin a process where, we the people realize and take action to set safe perameters of where to build and inhabitate. Having experience in emergency services (20yrs) and living through more hurricanes than I could count, I wonder; why do people alway underestimate the power of nature?

    September 16, 2008 at 6:35 pm |
  5. Keith Walters

    My question may be a little off topic here but it has a sympathetic ring to the issues of this story. Is there Federal legislation that can be created that would "lock" prices for natural resources and necessities for life in areas that are hard hit? In essence, prices would lock 72 hours before a national crisis/or state of emergency, and stay frozen on resources like energy, fuel, and food in an effort to protect consumers against gouging.

    September 16, 2008 at 5:38 pm |
  6. susan

    Most people from around the country do not understand why a lot of residents decided to stay in Galveston when mandatory evacuations were announced Most don't realize that people might not have enough money to live in a motel for more than 2 weeks, so they try to stay behind and brave the storm, it's cheap to live in Texas, particularly in places that are in the most vulnerable places, and I can imagine that most of these folks don't have a place to go other than their "portables".....others need to feel the bravado of the storm like some religious experience. There is nothing as scary as being inside the storm. I've experienced plenty of hurricanes growing up, but for even being 10 min from the beach does not compare to the awesome force of a gulf storm. It must have something to do with that 90 degree angle the winds come through because by the time it hits land, it's been building up for so long in the gulf that it literally becomes a bomb. Brick houses shake like the 3 little piggies' story.....it's like being inside a slow churning tornado for 8 hours listening to the devil shrieking all that time. The 90 mph sustained winds are just that: sustained.... meaning it sometimes goes up higher than that to what feels like 150 at some times. I can see the attraction to "certain" death.... maybe whoever issued that statement made a mistake cause it just egged people to stay and even non-galvestonians to come here to experience the awesome force of mother nature.

    September 16, 2008 at 5:16 pm |