Almost a week to the day after Hurricane Ike forced their evacuation from the coastal city of La Porte, 142 evacuees boarded busses Thursday for a return trip to salvage what is left of their homes, and their lives, on the coast.

La Porte city officials gave the OK for the evacuees to make their way home on Wednesday. While all city services are not available everywhere in the Houston-area suburb, enough progress is expected in restoring all power, water and sewer service to get the population headed back.

“I’m glad to get to go home,” said Patricia Durst, 81, an evacuee from La Porte. Durst said she had learned that her home didn’t suffer any flooding in the hurricane’s wake.

“I think I lost a few shingles and a pecan tree. It wasn’t bad. I’m grateful for that,” she said.

Durst had praise for her Corsicana hosts the past week at the Red Cross shelter at Cornerstone Baptist Church.

“We could not have been treated any better,” Durst said.

Seabrook resident Christy Crisp isn’t quite as lucky as Durst. Her home did suffer some damage and as of Thursday still had no electricity. And she’s having to leave behind her mother due to health reasons.

“My mom is still in the hospital here (in Corsicana) but I know she’s in good hands,” Crisp said.

Crisp’s mother-in-law, Linda Crisp, will be staying with Christy in Seabrook. Linda’s home was in Galveston Bay, and officials there are turning away evacuees because of the extensive hurricane damage on the island. She also had praise for local emergency officials.

“The nurses were great, the staff helped us with everything we needed,” she said. “They had answers to all of our questions.”

Of the evacuees that were housed at the Red Cross shelter at Cornerstone Baptist, about 20 were relocated to three different area nursing homes due to ongoing medical needs, said Pastor Rick Lamb, shelter coordinator for the city and county.

“We got all of them safely on the busses ... they all had an extra meal and bottled water for the trip ... it all went very well,” Lamb said. The six busses left the shelter at 8:45 a.m. Thursday bound for La Porte.

While the Red Cross shelter has concluded operations, several gulf residents are still in Corsicana, some staying with family in the area, others at the Salvation Army and the Dream Center and area motels.

Heritage Oaks Retirement Village and Heritage Oaks West are also playing host to some gulf area nursing home residents, evacuated ahead of the storm early last week. They are coordinating the care of about 130 patients at several facilities in North Texas.

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Bob Belcher may be reached via e-mail at belcher@corsicanadailysun.com

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