Hurricane Ike Set to Slam Texas Coast; Thousands Flee (Update2)
By Brian K. Sullivan and Tom Korosec
Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Ike
bore down on Texas,
heading for landfall as early as today in Galveston, where
forecasters warned residents of ``certain death'' if they ignore
a mandatory evacuation order.
The warning from the National Hurricane Center also applies
to coastal areas around Galveston, southeast of Houston, where
highways were jammed yesterday as thousands fled inland. Parts
of Galveston were already flooded, half a day before the storm's
eye is expected to come ashore. Galveston Bay will be hit by an
ocean surge as high as 25 feet (7.6 meters), and water levels a
mile in from the coast may exceed 9 feet, the center said.
``All neighborhoods and possibly entire coastal communities
will be inundated during the period of peak storm tide,'' the
center said. ``Persons not heeding evacuation
orders in single
family, one- or two-story homes may face certain death.''
Ike, which tripled in size in the Gulf of Mexico in the
past two days, was a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds
of 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the center said just before 10
a.m. Houston time. Ike is following a track similar
to the 1900
Galveston hurricane that killed 8,000 people, the deadliest
storm in U.S. history.
Ernest Baddeaux, a 66-year-old welder living a half-block
from Galveston Bay in La Porte, said he was staying put. He
hammered plywood over his windows and said he was reasonably
confident his house, one of the few in the neighborhood raised
on piers, would protect him.
Food for Weeks Hurricane
Alicia, which hit the Houston area in 1983,
brought a 12-foot storm surge that didn't reach his property.
``I think one other family on the street is staying, too,''
he said, adding that he has an electric generator, a supply of
gasoline and enough food and water to last for weeks.
Ike's projected path would make it the first storm to hit a
major U.S. metropolitan area since Hurricane Katrina devastated
New Orleans in 2005. Ike has the potential to cost insurers $25
billion, ranking it behind Katrina as the second-most expensive
storm in U.S. history, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu estimated.
Houston's population is 2.2 million, making it the fourth-
biggest U.S. city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau
, and its
metropolitan area, with a population of 5.6 million, is the
sixth-largest in the U.S.
The area is also home to 23 percent of U.S. refining
capacity. The region was devastated by Alicia, said Jim
, a senior energy meteorologist with Planalytics Inc. in
``The refineries were down for months,'' said Rouiller, who
accurately predicted the path of Hurricane Gustav, which struck
Louisiana Sept. 1. ``The whole infrastructure around the Houston
metropolitan area was devastated.''
Ike was approaching the upper Texas
coast, with the eye
about 195 miles southeast of Galveston, the hurricane center
said at 10 a.m. local time. The system was moving west-northwest
at 12 mph. Winds stronger than 100 mph may hit the coast by
midnight, it said.
Such a storm may collapse towers supporting high-voltage
transmission lines carrying power to population centers, as
Gustav did in Louisiana, Letitia Lowe, a spokeswoman for Houston
electricity distributor CenterPoint Energy Inc.
, said today in
an interview from her home as she prepared to leave for an
emergency command post north of the city.
Kyle Shaw, 25, a shopper at Randalls supermarket in western
Houston who works in real estate development and was preparing
for his first hurricane, said he picked up extra water.
Yesterday he visited a bookstore that was crammed with people.
``I figure we're going to be without electricity for days
and I was thinking about how to occupy my mind,'' Shaw said. ``I
can see myself reading books by candlelight.''
Ike left more than 70 people dead in Haiti and killed four
in Cuba as it swept through the Caribbean earlier this week.
The U.S. weather center said Ike may strengthen to Category
3, meaning sustained winds of at least 111 mph, before the eye
crosses the coast, placing it in the middle rank of the Saffir-
of intensity. Other forecasters predict Ike may
become a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of at least 131
mph, the second-strongest on the five-step scale.
Ike's winds cover an area larger than that of Katrina, saidJeff Masters
, director of meteorology at private forecaster
Weather Underground Inc. Hurricane-force winds stretch across
240 miles, equivalent to the distance between New York to
President George W. Bush
declared an emergency for Texas,
his home state. As many as 7,500 Texas National Guard members
are on standby.
NFL Game Postponed
Ike forced the Houston Texans to push back their National
Football League home-opener against the Baltimore Ravens by a
day to Sept. 15. The Houston Astros postponed two baseball games
against the Chicago Cubs that were scheduled for today and
Oil prices rose on concern that Ike will crimp production.
Crude oil for October delivery rose $0.78, or 0.8 percent, to
$101.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after
touching the lowest since April yesterday.
The storm has shut 97 percent of Gulf oil production and 93
percent of natural gas output, the Minerals Management Service
To contact the reporters on this story:Brian K. Sullivan
in Boston at email@example.com
in Houston, via the New York newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org Last Updated: September 12, 2008 11:34 EDT