By Charles Hadlock, NBC News
GALVESTON, TEXAS -- In the last week, I have stepped over more snakes, run from more rats and have been bitten by more mosquitoes than I care to count.
Thousands of people on Galveston Island fled for higher ground in the wake of Hurricane Ike. So did the snakes, rats and mosquitoes.
How could some of Earth's lowliest creatures survive one of nature's fiercest storms? Somehow they did and they're alive and thriving on Galveston Island. I have the mosquito bites alone to prove it.
The rising surge water forced critters of all kinds to seek higher ground. For residents returning home this week, don't be surprised to find snakes in trees and rats living in dry attics of some of Galveston's grandest homes.
All the water that rushed into Galveston is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, says the county's mosquito control director, John Marshall. The water has collected in almost everything Hurricane Ike tossed about. You'll find mosquitoes breeding in old tires, in the trunks of crushed cars and in the hundreds of pleasure boats now sitting on dry land. I even saw a hot tub perched in the median of a road, apparently washed in from one of the hundreds of homes miles away. Talk about your breeding ground!
You don't have to walk very far in Galveston to be attacked by mosquitoes. It doesn't matter what part of town you're in; mosquitoes don't discriminate. All they want is your blood. All they give is a weeklong itch and a chance for an illness like encephalitis.
Galveston County is launching an assault on the mosquito population. Trucks are spraying pesticide throughout each neighborhood. As if that's not enough, three airplanes are also spraying pesticide in remote parts of the island.
Come to think of it, that's not enough. Before you come to Galveston Island, douse yourself with bug repellent. Oh, and watch out for the snakes. And the rats.