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Galveston Quickly Recovering from Hurricane Ike

Nearly a month after Hurricane Ike devastated the island city of Galveston, Texas, there is still a lot of clean up work underway. One-third of the city's residents lost their homes according to the mayor. But basic services have been restored almost everywhere and both residents and businesses are returning. VOA's Greg Flakus takes us for a look at the progress being made in this report from Galveston.

Galveston remains a city of contrasts, where nature's destructive force is usually superseded by nature's beauty.

Long-time residents say it will take more than a storm to drive them away. Lois Walker is cleaning up the street in front of the house she has occupied for 43 years.

She and her family, like others, are determined to repair their homes, clean up and stay here in spite of the yearly threat of storms. "I have been here all my life and my family has been here all their lives, you know, my mother and father, my grandparents and everybody - so there is no sense leaving," Walker said.

City officials say about one-third of those who lived in Galveston lost their homes to Hurricane Ike. While some beachfront houses were destroyed, the wind and water left mostly minor damage farther from the shore.

Even so, tearing out water-damaged material, cleaning off mold and replacing everything could take months.

The San Luis resort is one place that was largely unaffected. It faces the Gulf of Mexico but was built on a rise of land that was an old military fort. Landry's Seafood House never closed, according to spokesman Steve Greenberg, "We were the base operation for the city of Galveston, so we were open during the entire storm," Greenberg said.

Among the city officials who rode the storm out here and who is now overseeing the recovery is Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc.

"We still have a ways to go," LeBlanc said. "But we are functioning and we do want people to come back to the island and spend your money and have a great time."

One thing that should draw people back is the Lone Star Motorcycle Rally at the end of October that organizers say brings in tens of millions of dollars.

"So, it is a tremendous way to jumpstart their economy," Ron Limbock of Lone Star Motorcycle Rally said.

Ron Limbock is the rally's promoter. He says he expects close to one half a million people to attend this year's event, partly because Texas bikers love this island, "Houston has 325,000 registered riders and there are a lot of riders who ride the coast because it is so beautiful," Limbock said. "So, we have a lot of neighbors who are coming down just for the day to have a good time and help support the cause."

And just driving into Galveston will provide visitors with a view of Ike's devastation. Many boats were blown up on land and remain scattered along roadways. Trucks work around the clock bringing debris to this site near the bridge to the mainland.

While it will take many months to remove what Ike left behind, city officials say Galveston is well on its way back.