GALVESTON — As Gulf Coast residents began wading through Hurricane Ike's receding floodwaters Sunday to search for food and rescue, stories of narrow misses, dark lonely nights and thoughts of suicide could be heard.
In Galveston, where the eye of the storm passed over early Saturday morning, families went to Ball High School carrying what they could in small suitcases and plastic bags as evacuees were being sent to San Antonio.
Pedro Sasano, 57, arrived just before the buses started lining up at 10 a.m. He was still shaken by the storm. "The first day, I made a mistake," Sasano said about staying at home. "I cried like a baby."
Sasano said he considered walking to the school before Ike hit, but floodwaters were already moving so fast Friday afternoon that he was afraid he couldn’t make it.
At one point, when the water got chest-high inside his home, he considered committing suicide. "I didn’t know what else to do," Sasano said. "I was scared."
His brother-in-law, Jerry Patterson, 47, was among 200 residents sheltered at the high school as the storm passed. His home was swamped by the storm.
"We had to sleep in water because it just kept coming in," Patterson said. "Then hail or debris or whatever was hitting the building."
After the first day of response efforts ended, exhausted Galveston police officer Raymond Orozco said he was in disbelief after seeing what had happened to the island.
He arrived at a woman’s home, which had sustained only cosmetic damage from the storm, only to have it catch fire as she was moving out her belongings. Firefighters, busy responding to blazes that have left smoke blowing across the city, were not able to get to her home in time, he said.
"All she could do was watch," Orozco said.
Members of Task Force One, an elite team of rescuers made up of firefighters, police officers and others from around the country, said they helped a family Saturday whose 5-year-old son fell through the attic where they were hiding during the storm.
"We were able to bandage him up, and they were leaving the next morning," said Stanley Hempstead, a medical specialist from Denton serving with the task force.
In Katy, people lined up outside an H-E-B grocery store that was lucky enough to have power and goods to sell. The store opened at 8 a.m., and its supply of ice, a valuable commodity for those without power, was gone 45 minutes later.
Shaun Myers said she hoped to get medicine for her 3-year-old daughter, Camille, who had developed a fever soon after Ike hit. "This is the only grocery store open in the area," Myers said.