2,000 Down, 138,000 to Go: Authorities Aid Those Who Stayed Behind

Responders try to rescue an estimated 140,000 Texans who ignored orders to flee.

Sept. 14, 2008 — -- The boats scattered inland and flooded roads of Texas aren't the biggest concerns for rescuers after Hurricane Ike. The most urgent project facing rescue crews is to try to reach people who remain stuck in their homes thanks to flooding that accompanied the storm.

In a Sunday afternoon news conference, authorities said 1,984 people had been rescued so far, including 394 by air.

In hard-hit Galveston, where Ike came ashore early Saturday, a door-to-door search continues. The only roadway to the island, Interstate 45, is closed to all but emergency vehicles and is blocked in areas by debris, including boats.

Officials had to use the opposite side of the highway to get to Galveston. It could take up to a month to restore power in Galveston, they say, and roads are still flooded.

In Houston, authorities imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. because of downed power lines, water pooling in roadways and darkened streetlights making it too difficult to navigate at night.

"In the interest of safety, we're asking people to not be out in the streets, in their vehicles or on foot," Police Chief Harold Hurtt said.

Officials warned it could be weeks before the nation's fourth-largest city is fully functional again.

"It's going to have to be a lot of neighbor helping neighbor, because people aren't used to living without power," said Houston Mayor Bill White on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" today. "We will bring this city back up and it will be stronger than ever before we know it."

White said the city likely will have damages in the billions, but was pleased that the majority of residents asked to evacuate did so.

"All of our fire and EMS crews — in a city of 2.2 million — didn't get a single call for a hurricane-related fatality," he said.

Authorities have attributed eight deaths to the storm, including one in Arkansas when a tree fell on a man's mobile home as the remnants of the storm swept through. Five deaths occurred in Texas and two in Louisiana, although authorities said the toll could rise. Residents who tried to return home found that flooded roads and debris-blocked streets prevented them from doing so, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged people not to try to return just yet.

President Bush planned to travel to Texas on Tuesday to express sympathy and lend support to the storm's victims. He asked people who evacuated before the hurricane to listen to local authorities before trying to return home.

Towns Underwater

In Orange, Texas, which is near the Louisiana border, residents couldn't wait for help and took matters into their own hands after a town levee reportedly broke and turned minor flooding into a major disaster.

The volunteers used fishing boats to evacuate trapped residents like the sick, elderly and their pets. Some rescued residents who had been urged to evacuate said they didn't have the money or any place to go.

The result was hundreds of people trapped in homes with water literally at their doorsteps -- or higher.

Nearby Bridge City also found itself underwater.

"People are sleeping in their attics with holes punched out — thought it was safer ground there," said one man.

More than 3 million were without power in Texas at the height of the storm, and it could be weeks before it is fully restored. Utilities made some progress by late Saturday, and lights returned to parts of Houston. In Louisiana, battered by both Ike and Labor Day's Hurricane Gustav, 180,000 homes and businesses were in the dark.

Riding Out the Storm

For those who stayed, riding out Ike wasn't easy.

"It seemed like we were OK until the water came up and the man across the street came and carried the babies across," said an emotional Beatrice Fernandez, who eventually made her way to a high school turned shelter.

"It was a little rocky. I think I was fine until I saw how high the water had really risen," said storm survivor Patricia Bolton-Legg, who didn't evacuate.

In Jersey City, Texas, one family huddled while Ike ripped the roof off of the motel room where they were staying.

"We heard a really, really loud explosion and the ceiling just, it felt like we were being sucked out of the room," said Evan Acuna. "My sister who was sleeping next to my dad, she flew away. My dad grabbed her in the air and pulled her down"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.