Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on KHOU.com on Sept. 11, 2015. 

Award Note: This story was won a first place Lone Star Award for Internet News Feature Story by the Houston Press Association on June 25, 2016.

The haunting images from Hurricane Ike serve as a reminder of the power of Mother Nature. In a matter of hours, a single storm turned a stretch of the Galveston coastline—from Jamaica Beach in the West End to Gilchrist on the Bolivar Peninsula—into more than 40 miles of saltwater wasteland.

Hurricane Ike barged in the Texas coast in the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008, and with its powerful storm surge it swept away houses, leveled buildings and caused nearly $30 billion in damages. It was the third costliest Atlantic hurricane in American history.

Many residents who evacuated returned to nothing. Those who stayed—those who survived—still count their blessings that they weren’t swept away so carelessly by the raging storm that left miles of destruction in its wake.

Carole Hamadey shows how the water reached at her Crystal Beach home when Hurricane Ike hit in 2008. Storm surges in the area hit upwards of 15-plus feet.

Carole Hamadey shows how the water reached at her Crystal Beach home when Hurricane Ike hit in 2008. Storm surges in the area hit upwards of 15-plus feet.