"It's not going to be the same Galveston Island it was," said councilman Danny Weber. "It's as safe as we can make it at this time, the rest is up to you as individuals."
Officials said today that returning residents should prepare to be utterly self-reliant, bringing their own food, water and gasoline. They described the opposite of a sentimental journey: residents will encounter mosquitoes, rats and snakes; traffic could be chaotic and back up for hours on I-45 and water will not be drinkable for months.
"We do want to caution folks," said FEMA spokesman Marty Bahamonde. "There will be some struggles."
Residents of the eastern urban core may come to stay, but realistically should be prepared to make assessments and leave again, said City Manager Steve LeBlanc. An estimated 75 percent of homes will be uninhabitable and no shelters are provided on the island, officials said. West End residents are still under a "look and leave" policy.
"We really are unable to provide for them," LeBlanc said.
Conditions are so rough that officials are asking residents not to return with their children. Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas is requesting $2.4 billion in aid from the federal government to repair the battered city.