After Ike, Houston on the Mend

City staples like electricity, traffic lights and schools are out of commission.

ByABC News
September 17, 2008, 5:57 PM

HOUSTON, Sept. 17, 2008— -- Five days after Hurricane Ike struck Texas, nearly 2 million people in Houston are still without power.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Houston Mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett met this afternoon to discuss Ike recovery efforts and tour damage in the city.

Without electricity, the nation's fourth-largest city has no lights, no air conditioning and no hot meals.

Once again today, families lined up in parking lots where emergency relief supplies were handed out, to get their share of basic necessities like food and water, but many feel like they've been left in the dark.

"The meals will be gone by today," said Charlotte Braden, a Houston resident. "The water a couple of days; at my house I have no power since the storm -- no power."

At one Houston nursing home, the 350 residents are also without power, forcing staff to rely on back-up generators to keep patient-support systems operating.

But there were some signs today that things are coming back. A Chic-Fil-A fast food restaurant opened for business, and lines quickly formed for the chance at a hot meal.

Getting around a city without traffic lights has meant congestion at every corner, but today workers began repairing lights at some of the busiest intersections -- one of the first steps to restoring normalcy to the ravaged city.

Residents have been told by officials that the water from their faucets is now drinkable and does not need to be boiled first.

Delta Air Lines also announced that it will resume full flights to Houston this weekend -- another step toward the normal hustle and bustle.

But throughout the city, schools remain closed until at least next week. Many are in need of dire repair, and most do not have the electricity to operate.

To fight the cabin fever being felt by both parents and children, the Houston Zoo reopened today. Kids who have had to endure so much these last five days were thrilled to see the elephants and just let their minds wander.

"We are getting out of the house and enjoying the nice rare fall weather," one mother at the zoo told ABC News. "We have no power, so we are just trying to think of creative things to do with the kids."

Before Hurricane Ike hit, Houston was one of the few economically booming cities left in the nation. In 2008, new construction in the city has been up by 30 percent. At least 100,000 new jobs have been created, and White has proposed a $4 billion dream budget, calling for more police and firefighters while lowering property taxes.