Ike Coverage: Galveston sheriff posts pictures of jail, no official response to putting 1,000 inmates at risk
As the result of coverage by Facing South and a few other media outlets about the decision to not evacuate over 1,000 inmates and staff of the Galveston County jail for Hurricane Ike, officials are now reassuring the public that the inmates were not hurt and are being well cared for.
In the last 24 hours, the Galveston County Sheriff's Office website has been updated with a section titled "Current status at the Galveston County jail." The link takes you to four pictures with captions. Here's the first:
Their caption:"At no time did the tidal surge breach the walls of the Galveston County Jail."
Our comment: And it's a miracle it didn't.
The Sheriff's department picture appears to confirm that the County Jail is a one-story structure. As you'll remember, the National Weather Service was warning that those in one-story buildings faced "certain death" if they did not evacuate for the Hurricane.
Here was the National Weather Service's warning on the morning of Friday, September 12 -- the day Galveston officials like sheriff Gean Leonard were supposed to be carrying out evacuation orders:
COASTAL STORM SURGE FLOODING OF UP TO 20 FEET...WITH A FEW SPOTS TO NEAR 25 FEET...ABOVE NORMAL TIDE ALONG WITH LARGE AND DANGEROUS BATTERING WAVES...CAN BE EXPECTED NEAR AND TO THE EAST OF WHERE THE CENTER OF IKE MAKES LANDFALL.Here's a 3D rendition of what a 20-foot surge could have looked like in Galveston -- and did look like for much of the city. Basically, this model showed that everything within one mile of the beach would be under water.
THE SURGE EXTENDS A GREATER THAN USUAL DISTANCE FROM THE CENTER DUE TO THE LARGE SIZE OF THE CYCLONE. [my emphasis]
As it turns out, that's just how far the Galveston County Jail is from the coast. Here's a Google Map showing the location of the jail:
The jail is almost exactly a mile from the Gulf of Mexico, and less than 2,000 feet from the inlet leading into Galveston Bay.
By sheer luck, the storm surge turned out to be less than expected -- about 15 feet. But the Galveston County Sheriff couldn't have known that when he made the decision to keep over 1,000 inmates trapped in the one-story jail.
Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.