The Washington Post editorial

The situation on the Gulf Coast of Texas is dismal. Power is out and in some areas won't return for weeks. There's water everywhere — just not the kind those who rode out Hurricane Ike can drink. Much of the city of Galveston has been reduced to matchsticks. More than 30 deaths have been reported in nine states. And it could have been a whole lot worse.

Hurricane Ike was a monster of a storm. At 600 miles across, on radar images it looked as big as the Gulf of Mexico itself. Federal officials and authorities in states along the Gulf Coast were persistent in their pleas to residents to seek shelter inland after Ike ripped through Haiti and Cuba the previous weekend. By last Thursday, the National Weather Service had announced bluntly: "Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single-family one- or two-story homes will face certain death."

Galveston had not been hit by a storm like that since 6,000 people were killed in a 1900 hurricane. In response to that disaster, buildings were elevated by more than 10 feet. A 10-mile-long, 17-foot-tall sea wall was constructed. Ike was expected to deliver a storm surge of 25 feet; it came in at 11. "Fortunately, the worst-case scenario did not occur," Gov. Rick Perry, R, said over the weekend. But the aftermath is grim enough.

Two million people throughout the region heeded the warnings to flee Ike's path. But 20,000 Galveston residents stayed behind. Now that Ike has laid waste to the city, its mayor has told them to "please leave." Festering pools of stagnant water and the mosquitoes they attract have turned the island into a breeding ground for disease. Officials said that power and sewage systems might not be up and running for a month. It's uncertain when residents will be able to return to what's left of their homes. But when they do, there must be some tough discussions about their city's future.

Hurricane Ike and the destruction of Galveston raise the same questions that the drowning of New Orleans posed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When cleanup turns to rebuilding, should city and state lawmakers give serious consideration to reducing the risk to life and property by restricting what can be built where on the island? Should public resources be used to extend the sea wall? Would doing that encourage more and riskier development? These are serious questions. Ike's destructive wake shows they demand serious thought.

— The Washington Post