By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Published: September 10, 2008Texas
officials are preparing for Hurricane Ike after the storm spun off Cuba
early Wednesday and began heading for the state with growing strength. After pummeling Haiti
Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean, Ike was expected to refuel in
the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall near Corpus Christi early Saturday
with winds as high as 130 miles an hour. With memories of Hurricane
Dolly in July still fresh in their minds, officials in coastal areas
like Brazoria County and the city of Galveston brought in buses and
issued a mix of voluntary and mandatory evacuation orders.
In Brazoria County, just south of Houston, as many as 20,000 people
live or work in the mandatory evacuation zone on the coast; they were
ordered on Wednesday to pack up and flee by 10 a.m. Shelters were
opened further inland, cots were set up at the Dallas Convention
Center, and the Red Cross mobilized trucks in San Antonio to hand out
food and supplies to evacuees. State officials said they would open up
a northbound shoulder on Interstate 37 to smooth the flow of
As of 11 a.m. eastern time on Wednesday, the
hurricane was about 430 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi
River and spiraling on a northwest path with wind speeds near 90 miles
an hour, making it a Category 1 on a scale of 1 to 5, the National
Hurricane Center said. But with Ike feeding off the warm waters of the
Gulf of Mexico as it aims for Texas, it will almost certainly develop
into a far more severe hurricane, likely Category 3, at some point
during the day Thursday, the center added.
Oil companies had
begun evacuations on oil platforms and infrastructure near the
Texas-Louisiana border, , but Ike’s shifted path seems to have spared
production facilities after all. That development, combined with the
likelihood that OPEC
would keep production stable, prompted United States crude oil futures
to fall on Wednesday. Offshore oil platforms in the gulf handle about a
quarter of the nation’s petroleum production.
Hurricane Dolly, a
Category 2, dumped 16 inches of rain along the Texas coast in July,
knocked out power to 212,000 homes and businesses and caused at least
$1.2 billion worth of damage. With Hurricane Ike expected to pack even
more strength, and Gov. Rick Perry
of Texas has already issued a disaster declaration and activated 7,500 National Guard troops.
it barrels into the Gulf, Hurricane Ike leaves in its wake a trail of
devastation. It is already responsible for the deaths of at least 80
people in the Caribbean, a majority of them in Haiti, which was still
recovering from Hurricane Gustav
a Category 3 storm that took 76 lives and flattened 2,100 homes.
Gonaives, the worst of Haiti’s many disaster zones in the scale of the
death and destruction, is especially vulnerable when hurricanes
strike. Located in a flood plain, it fills up fast when rivers break
their banks and rain rushes down mountains long ago stripped of their
On Wednesday, the White House spokeswoman Dana Perino
announced that the United States would provide $10 million in humanitarian aid to the country.
man who runs the local Red Cross in Gonaives, Daniel Dupliton, has
taken in displaced relatives, friends and complete strangers, 100 of
them in all, taking up every inch of floor space in his home.
“There are official shelters and then there are unofficial ones, like my house, which is on higher ground,” he said.
Ike devastated Cuba as well, which was also recovering from a direct
hit by Gustav. As Ike traveled east across the island with winds that
at times reached Category 3 speeds, it moved so quickly that it claimed
four lives before the Cuban government — which has a history of
responding well to hurricanes — could evacuate most of the people in
its path. By early Wednesday, more than 2 million evacuees had fled the
storm, and at least 16 buildings were toppled in the island’s capital,
Havana. American navy ships have already begun delivering supplies to
Cuba, CNN reported.Marc Lacey contributed reporting from Haiti.