orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Lifestyle

September 14, 2013

Orange County communities show growth since Ike

BRIDGE CITY — Five years after Hurricane Ike, the remnants of its devastating storm surge and catastrophic damage have healed but the scars remain.

The City of Bridge City was nearly wiped from the map on Sept. 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike unleashed its fury on the Texas Gulf Coast with more than 100 mph winds and a storm surge estimated between 15 to 20 feet in some locations. Bridge City was one of the hardest hit communities as 99 percent of the city’s 3,300 homes and nearly all of its businesses sustained water damage.

“The city is looking real good right now,” said Mayor Kirk Roccaforte. “I would never have dreamed we would be as far along in five years as we are. I think it’s just amazing. The citizens, the city employees and administration and other entities from around Orange County and outside the county have helped us get Bridge City back on track in that time and I can’t say thank you enough.”

Since the storm, Bridge City has accomplished many of its objectives in a relatively short amount of time.

Thanks for federal funding, Bridge City has completed repairs or rebuilt miles and miles of its city streets, has dealt with drainage issues, water and sewer system projects and continues to address more of those issues in 2013.

“We are still using federal funding from the final round of the Ike recovery project to finish some of the work we have left to do,” Roccaforte added. “We still have some roads left to repair and our waste water system, but I think we will probably be done with all that in about another year. We are 98 percent done and looking good.”

The Bridge City Independent School District sustained damage to all of its campuses in some form, some more than others. The damage was so bad at its two elementary schools that a new state of the art elementary school which opened in August 2011.

Enrollment has increased every year since the storm and has surpassed pre-Hurricane Ike figures as more than 2,700 students currently attend class at the district’s four campuses. This is a 17 percent increase when compared to figures before Ike.

“Our population is a little more than it was prior to the storm, which is good,” Roccaforte added. “We still have homes for sale and a few that need to be addressed from the storm, but things are going great and we hope to make through the rest of this hurricane season with no issues.”

Even though Roccaforte knows the work is not completed yet, he feels a sense of pride knowing how much has been accomplished.

“I get comments from political figures and elected figures all of the time on how well Bridge City has done since the storm,” he said. “It’s truly an honor to be the mayor of this city and to represent this community.”

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