September 24, 2008 (AP) -- Thousands of people returned on Wednesday for the first time since their island city was blasted by Hurricane Ike nearly two weeks ago, choosing home over warnings that Galveston is "broken" and infested with germs and snakes.

Traffic was backed up for 10 miles on the one major highway leading into Galveston, but things appeared to go smoothly once the city of about 57,000 started letting people in about 6 a.m. Many people had been waiting in their cars along Interstate 45 since before dawn.

Police officers were stationed to direct traffic at major intersections where signal lights were ripped away by the hurricane's 110-mile-per-hour wind and 12-foot storm surge on Sept. 13.

City officials had prepared residents for such scenes, painting a dreary picture about living conditions on the island since Ike's devastation.

"When you come back it's not going to be the same Galveston Island you left," Mayor Pro Tem Danny Weber said Tuesday. "It's been damaged. It's been broken."

The mayor and others warned people not to return without tetanus shots and rat bait, and to be ready for swarms of mosquitoes and displaced snakes. Residents were told to bring their own water and to not even consider turning on the gas or flipping an electrical switch until one of the island's three remaining electrical inspectors can examine the property.

There is little drinkable water, limited food, sewer and medical facilities. A curfew is in effect nightly from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

"We do want to caution folks. There will be some struggles," said Marty Bahamonde, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

At least 61 deaths, 26 of them in Texas, were blamed on the Category 2 hurricane and its remnants.

Roughly 45,000 of the city's 57,000 residents fled Galveston Island, about 50 miles southeast of Houston, along with hundreds of thousands more from other sections of the Texas coast.

CenterPoint Energy Inc. reported on Tuesday that 73 percent of its 2.26 million customers now had electricity. Entergy Texas reported that 89 percent of its nearly 393,000 customers affected by Hurricane Ike had power again.

  On Tuesday, Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas and other city leaders went to Washington to ask lawmakers for nearly $2.5 billion in emergency funds.