RV Parks In Center of Ike Devastation
The RV park and campground industry in Texas was both victim and savior during Hurricane Ike, which decimated the Texas Gulf Coast over the weekend.
“We probably have 20 parks in the Gulf Coast region that have been destroyed or badly damaged. We have not been able to reach any of them,” Brian Schaeffer, executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO), told Woodall’s Campground Management late Monday.
“It was such a huge storm that major damage was unavoidable. We were pretty well prepared for not losing life but there is no way to avoid property damage. The good news is we have really great folks banding together and really helping each other out,” he said.
Dozens of private and public parks and campgrounds inland, from Mission north to Denton, provided shelter for thousands of storm evacuees, Schaeffer estimated. “The majority of parks within 100 miles of Houston are full with evacuees,” he said.
“It’s been quite the time the last three weeks, starting with Gustav (over the Labor Day weekend) which we kind of dodged a bullet on and offered some good evacuee assistance to folks from Louisiana. But this deal here is not good,” he said.
Parks with damage range from 60 miles south of Galveston northward to Beaumont near the Louisiana state line, he said.
Schaeffer said he was talking on the phone with a park owner in Beaumont when winds measured at 100 mph struck, feeling a tree, which then cut a fifth-wheel in half. He fears the worst of parks in and near Galveston, where the storm made landfall on Saturday packing 110 mph winds and spawning heavy flooding.
“I have talked with several parks in the greater Houston area. Half are without power. The other half got power on today. Those with power are completely full,” he said on Monday (Sept. 15).
“We have a lot of parks that have worked with the evacuees to help ease their pain as much as possible,” he said. “The biggest problem is how long will it be before folks can get back home to see what they have left.”
Many campgrounds began the first of last week canceling weekend reservations in anticipation the storm would be deadly. Then, by mid-week, as warnings of the storm grew, potential evacuees began to book the available spaces, managers explained.
Prior to the storm, TACO sent out an e-mail blast and posted on its website all the private parks offering shelter and discounts to evacuees. Then, Schaeffer followed that up with a news release that Texas media picked up, further alerting the RVing public.
Schaeffer said the storm provided some moving human interest stories. The following are comments from park managers to WCM and contents of e-mails Schaeffer received from park managers since last Friday:
TACO’s Lone Star Fund and ARVC’s Disaster Relief Fund are available to help parks recover from the damage, Schaeffer noted.
The 2008 hurricane season may go down as the worst since 2005 when Katrina and Rita battered the Gulf Coast. At least four major storms – Dolly, Hanna, Gustav and Ike – blew across the Gulf and Eastern Seaboard in late summer causing billions of dollars of damage and dislocating millions of people, including countless vacationing campers.
Gustav, which made landfall on Labor Day (Sept. 1) as a Category 2 storm, and Ike, which made hit Galveston, Texas, and then Houston the weekend of Sept. 12-14, were the most deadly.