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Sanctuary Staff and Facilities

October 16, 2008 (updated 11/13/09)--Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary staff are all safe following Hurricane Ike's landfall on September 13, 2008. That's the good news. The bad news is that many of the staff suffered significant losses to their personal properties on Galveston island. A storm surge of 14 feet caused flooding over most of the island, eliminated seaside structures, and pushed up to 3 feet of water through some staff members' homes.

The skeletal remains of a wooden building supported on wooden pilings out over the water.  Lots of piling pieces are also visible sticking up through the surf, but their structures are long gone.

Storm surge damage from Hurricane Ike in Galveston, TX. There were once 4 piered structures along this section of the seawall. Only the hotel in the background remains and its pier is severly damaged.

NOAA's Sanctuary and Fisheries offices, however, are situated on one of the highest parts of the island and did not experience any flooding even though they are located only a block and a half from the Gulf of Mexico. Some rainwater leaked in around doors and through relatively minor roof damage, which is actually pretty normal! The wind also removed some clay roof tiles and the entire canvas roof of the Aquacell, which is located adjacent to the sanctuary office building.

Oblong building curved roof structure.  Only the metal frame for the roof is still intact. The canvas covering is completely gone.

The enitire canvas roof of the Aquacell was removed by hurricane force winds.

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R/V Manta

Our research vessel, the Manta, was moved to Barber's Cut up in Houston for the duration of the storm. Unfortunately, it sustained some significant hull damage after coming in contact with a nearby barge. However, thanks to the quick actions of our two captains, Chuck and Deb, who stayed on the vessel throughout the storm, the boat remained afloat.

Despite the storm damage, the Manta and her crew provided first responder assistance to the Texas A&M Galveston campus and the city of Galveston upon their return to the island. On February 2, 2009 Texas A&M University (TAMU) recognized the crew of the NOAA vessel R/V Manta, along with many others, for their support.

Several weeks later, the vessel was sent to a shipyard in Louisiana for repairs. It arrived back in Galveston on October 25th.

Shrimp boat standing upright in the parking lot of a restaurant on the bay side of Galveston Island.

A shrimp boat now sits in the parking log of Willie G's. The R/V Manta dedication ceremony took place at the pier behind Willie G's just a few months before.

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Reef Condition

Buoy data gleaned via the internet showed that the eye of the hurricane passed directly over East Flower Garden Bank en route to Galveston. Emma Hickerson and Marissa Nuttall were able to make a quick, one-day trip to East and West Flower Garden Banks on Friday, October 10th to see the results. The initial impression is that the sanctuary sustained damage similar to that from Rita in 2005, but on a slightly larger scale. For a more detailed report, please visit our Post-Ike Reef Assessment page.

Sanctuary staff still plan to make a more thorough assessment of all three banks as soon as possible.

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Back to Business

The sanctuary office was officially back in business as of October 13, 2008. Some sanctuary staff are tending to regular work tasks while also trying to restore their homes, so please bear with us during this period of recovery.

Many thanks for all of your emails and messages of concern and support. We hope you are all well and on the road to recovery too!

More Hurricane Ike images...

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weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Ruby brittle star in foreground, snaking across a spawning star coral in background.  Coral spawn looks like white BBs floating up from the coral.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves