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From the project "Paradise Has Relocated" by Sandy Carson. (Courtesy of Sandy Carson)

The Long Tail Of A Hurricane

by Ryan Smith
Jan 16, 2013

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The House just approved a $50 billion assistance package to victims of Hurricane Sandy — months after the storm wrecked much of the East Coast — although the Senate is yet to vote. Securing relief funds after natural disasters has traditionally been noncontroversial, but with the recent deficit debates, this has been an unusual struggle.

And sometimes, funding doesn't seem to be enough. Take Galveston, Texas, for example. In 2008, the city was rocked by Hurricane Ike. And when Sandy Carson went to photograph it a few years later, what he found was a city, in many ways, still in shambles.

Carson started his project, "Paradise Has Relocated," after hearing stories from storm victims who relocated from Galveston to Austin, while he was on assignment there for the Austin Chronicle.

"It was pretty shocking, very third world and ghostly looking," he writes about his first visit. "I realized that this was going to be a project and not a quick visit in journalism."

Carson spent two years photographing on Tiki Island and the Bolivar Peninsula, where damage was the worst.

"Cleanup was pretty slow there," he writes. "I saw a little progress each time I visited, but also saw a lot of desperation and anger from victims living in FEMA trailers, not being rehoused, hurricane insurance claims falling through, etc."

Although the recovery effort in Galveston has made headway in recent years, there is still more work that remains to be done. And what happens in the wake of Hurricane Sandy also remains to be seen.

Ryan Smith is a former intern in NPR's multimedia department.

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