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|Subject: Hurricane Ike slams into Texas Sat Sep 13, 2008 8:56 am|| |
By Chris Baltimore and Anna Driver
HOUSTON, Sept 13 -
(Reuters) - Hurricane Ike barrelled into the densely populated Texas
coast near Houston early on Saturday, bringing with it a wall of water
and ferocious winds and rain that could cause catastrophic flooding
along the Gulf of Mexico and cripple the fourth-largest U.S. city.
which has idled more than a fifth of U.S. oil production, came ashore
at the barrier island city of Galveston as a strong Category 2 storm at
2:10 a.m. CDT (8:10 a.m. British time) with 110 mph (175 kph) winds,
the National Hurricane Centre said.
Ike surprised Texans with its
fury and size, roughly the size of Texas itself. It is the biggest
storm to hit a U.S. city since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans
in 2005.The hurricane drove a wall of water 20 feet (6 metres)
high over Galveston and submerged a 17-foot (5-metre) sea wall built to
protect the city after a 1900 hurricane killed at least 8,000 people.
Most people had fled and scattered fires were reported on the island,
where emergency operations were suspended through the storm.
50 miles (80 km) inland, Ike lashed downtown Houston's glass-covered
skyscrapers, blowing out windows and sending debris flying through city
The hurricane has shut down 17 oil refineries on the
Gulf of Mexico, the heart of the U.S. oil sector where 22 percent of
fuel supplies are processed. Energy experts said it would take at least
a week for the refineries to get back to normal.
More than 1.3
million customers were without electricity, according to local reports.
That number was likely to increase and utilities warned it could take
up to two weeks to restore power.
Ike was expected to remain a
hurricane through Saturday afternoon and could dump up to 10 inches (25
cm) of rain over eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana."Even
though Ike has made landfall, it remains a very large and dangerous
hurricane with effects felt at long distances from the Centre," the hurricane Centre said.EVACUATION ORDERS.
More than a million Texans heeded evacuation orders and headed inland, but officials worried that many had remained.
"It's not a time to play chicken with the storm," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Friday.
the storm surge swelled onto Galveston Island, some people who had
ignored a mandatory evacuation order called to be rescued. They got no
response because emergency workers were ordered off the streets through
the worst of the storm, officials told the Houston Chronicle.
don't know what we're going to find tomorrow," Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas
told the newspaper. "We hope we'll find that the people who didn't
leave here are alive and well."There were no immediate confirmed reports of storm-related fatalities or injuries.Some who thought they would stick it out made a last-minute exit from Galveston."When I woke up, my bed was floating in the house," said handyman David Daubuisson. "I just took what I could and got out."
The Coast Guard had to rescue 65 people from rising waters on the Bolivar Peninsula, east of Galveston.
warned Ike would send water surging up the Houston Ship Canal, the
second-busiest U.S. port, a complex of docks, pipelines, depots and
warehouses that receives automobiles, consumer products, industrial
equipment and other cargo from around the world.
A dawn-to-dusk curfew was imposed to prevent looting in Houston, where airports were closed and hotels jammed.
crude oil futures rose 31 cents on Friday to $101.18 a barrel after
dropping below $100 for the first time since early April as concerns
over U.S. economic weakness outweighed storm disruption fears.
Ike could be the third most-destructive U.S. storm behind Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Andrew in 1992, experts said.
costliest storm in U.S. history, Katrina, devastated New Orleans and
other parts of the Gulf Coast, killing 1,500 people and causing at
least $81 billion (45 billion pounds) in damage.