President Bush today traveled to the region to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Ike; in Houston, he praised state and local officials' evacuation plan as "excellent in its planning and in execution." He also called the rescue plan "very bold."
As the grim search for victims who decided to ride out the storm continued, Ike's death toll climbed higher to at least 30, 20 of which came from Galveston and Brazoria counties. Officials can't say for certain how many people remain unaccounted for.
"We can always hope for miracles," Chambers County Sheriff Joe LaRive told ABC News on the prospect of finding more alive.
On the devastated Bolivar Peninsula, there is fear that those who chose to ride out the storm may have been swept out to sea. Emergency workers rescued more than 2,000 people who ignored mandatory evacuation orders. They also saved many stranded pets.
The president urged Texas residents to listen to state and local authorities before going back to their homes.
"The government will reimburse you for your stay" for the next 30 days," he said. He also talked about fuel and water being distributed and getting the electricity grid up and running.
Bush spoke of the "resilience of the people to deal with the tough situations." But for many evacuees, the initial shock of Ike's fury has now given way to painful resignation; the road ahead is daunting for most, and reality has begun to set in.
In the hard hit coastal town of Oak Island, many homes were swept off foundations.
"After seeing this, I would have never imagined this could happen. Absolutely unreal," Oak Island resident Jack Innmon said while holding back tears.
Amy Chance and her family lost three houses. She spent the day sifting through debris, in a fruitless search for the familiar.
"For some reason, I'm looking for Christmas ornaments and mainly just pictures and china," she said. "Because everything else is gone."
ABC News' Jennifer Duck, Viviana Hurtado, Jesus Ayala and Michael Scott contributed to this report.