Recovery efforts from Hurricane Ike continue in Texas in the wake of the devastating storm. The death toll in the state stands at 17 however tens of thousands of people chose not to evacuate and officials are concerned the actual toll is much greater than that. It could take years for a full accounting of the missing to happen as it is thought that some that stayed behind and chose to ride the storm out were simply washed away into the Gulf of Mexico.
Search and rescue personnel have completed a search for survivors and the Red Cross is now performing welfare checks on people named by relatives. An estimated 90,000 people stayed behind and accounting for them will be virtually impossible. The death toll will of course not climb to that high of a number but it is expected that at least some of that number will never be accounted for.
In the coastal town of Crystal Beach, the stench of rotting animals and livestock permeated the air where dozens stayed behind. One account told of a survivor seeing a friend pulled out to see when she couldn’t hold onto the rafters of a home.
With the passing of Hurricane Ike, emergency responders in the Houston and Galveston area begin the task of aiding and rescuing the approximately 140,000 people who chose not to evacuate the area as the storm approached. Debris and flooding made the task extremely difficult and hazardous for those tasked with helping recover from the devastating storm.
Texas Governor Rick Perry expressed frustration at having to put rescuers’ lives on the line for those that chose to ignore the warnings. Thousands of 911 calls poured in as the storm struck Friday night and into Saturday morning. As of Saturday night the governor’s office said 940 people had been saved. Another 600 were rescued from Louisiana floods.
More than 3 million people in Texas were without power at the height of the storm. 180,000 in Louisiana face the same problem. Power providers in the region say it could take weeks before power is fully restored.
Hurricane Ike made landfall over Galveston at 12:10am MDT on Saturday and was over 900 miles across at one point. As the storm moved inland, it continued to produce hurricane condtions for over 100 miles. As damaging as the storm was, it could have been much worse. Authorities had predicted storm surges of 20 to 25 feet but thankfully that did not bear out. The greatest surge occurred at Sabine-Pass near the Texas-Louisiana border and was measured at 15 feet.
The eye of Hurricane Ike made landfall Saturday morning as a category 2 storm with winds of 110 mph at 1:10am MDT. Long before that though the effects of the storm were being felt as the winds and storm surge began to batter Galveston Island and the Texas coast. Now the waiting for daybreak begins as no one is sure exactly what will be found once daylight comes.
The sheer size of this massive storm has wreaked havoc across much of the Texas and Louisiana coast. Measuring 900 miles wide, Ike’s tropical storm-force winds extended out to 275 miles – effectively the length of the Texas coastline – from its center. Evacuation orders were issued for over 1 million people but tens of thousands are expected to have taken the chance and tried to ride the storm out raising fears of potentially massive counts of dead. Area officials were telling those that stay behind to write their social security numbers on their arms so their bodies could be identified in the worst case scenario.
The Galveston County Office of Emergency Management has said on its website, “Much of the Galveston Island is currently flooded and there are several fires in that area.” Emergency management officials have reported receiving numerous calls asking for help but rescuers will be unable to aid anyone for hours until the storm subsides. In perhaps one of the most dramatic moments, early yesterday evening a distress call was received from a 584-foot Cyprus-flagged freighter that was adrift without power 90 miles from the center of the storm. The Coast Guard sent planes and helicopters to attempt a resuce of the 22 people on board but were forced to turn back due to the conditions. The ship was told they would simply have to ride it out.
Now the world waits for daybreak to see what sort of devastation Ike has brought to Texas.
Potentially the most devastating hurricane since Hurricane Katrina three years ago is nearing the Texas Gulf Coast Friday morning. Hurricane Ike is currently 265 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas and expected to make landfall very near that coastal island city around midnight tonight. Ike is so large though that the outer bands of the storm are already starting to be felt along the coast and conditions will deteriorate there throughout today long before the eye makes landfall. Minor flooding along the barrier islands south of Galveston have been reported this morning as well.
Hurricane hunter aircraft have measured winds in Hurricane Ike at 105 mph making it a category 2 storm at the current time. The sheer size of the storm can be seen in the wind measurements which show hurricane force winds extend outward up to 120 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 275 miles. As the storm nears the coast, it is expected to continue to strengthen and make landfall with category 3 winds of 115 mph.
Make no mistake – this is going to be a major storm. The National Weather Service office in Houston / Galveston has issued a very dire warning: “All neighborhoods … and possibly entire coastal communities … will be inundated during the period of peak storm tide. Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single-family one- or two-story homes will face certain death.”
The last time the National Weather Service used such strong language was with Hurricane Katrina and this simply serves to highlight the danger this storm presents. As always, the greatest danger with hurricanes is not the wind but the rain and storm surge that accompany it and Hurricane Ike has both of those in spades. Coastal storm surge up to 20 feet and large, dangerous battering waves are expected. 5 to 10 inches of rain are expected in eastern Texas, possibly up to 15 inches in some areas.
Over 400 miles of Texas coastline is under a hurricane warning now with nearly 1 million residents under evacuation orders. Galveston Island, population 280,000 is expected to take a near direct hit and is being evacuated. Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for low-lying coastal areas northeast and southwest of Galveston, in Chambers, Matagorda and Brazoria counties including parts of Houston.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kent Prochazka said, “Don’t stay… This is not a storm that people who have lived down here have probably experienced unless they’ve been here for more than … 70 or 80 years.”
500 miles of Texas coastline are now under a hurricane warning as Hurricane Ike continues to threaten a 500 miles stretch of the Gulf Coast. Tens of thousands of residents have been ordered to evacuate including all of Galveston Island and many other vulnerable areas. Thursday afternoon, evacuations will begin for many low lying areas surrounding Houston and all schools and government offices in the city will be closed Friday.
As of 8:00am MDT, Hurricane Ike was about 580 miles east-southeast of Corpus Christi and about 470 miles east-southeast of Galveston. The storm is moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph. A general west-northwestward motion is expected over the next day or so and the center of Ike should be very near the coast by late Friday. But, Ike is an extremely large storm and coastal areas will begin feeling the effects of the storm long before then.
Since leaving Cuba, the storm has continued to grow in size and intensity. Latest hurricane hunter aircraft have measured sustained winds of 100 mph making Ike a category 2 storm. Hurricane force winds extend outward 115 miles from the center of the storm, tropical storm winds extend 255 miles. As Hurricane Ike transits the Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to continue to grow, potentially becoming a category 3 storm with 120+ mph winds.
There is a great danger of significant loss of property and life in the storm’s path. Considerable storm surge to the north of where the storm makes landfall can be expected as well as torrential rain and tornadoes. Galveston Island could be hit with surge from 14 to 20 feet, potentially overtopping the city’s seawall.
For the city of Galveston, the threat of Ike brings to the forefront memories of what is widely considered the worst natural disaster in United States history – the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Coincidentally, this past Monday, September 8, was the 108th anniversary since that killer category 4 hurricane claimed up to 12,000 lives (the exact number is impossible to determine due to inexact record keeping). In that storm, a 15 foot storm surge submerged the island and destroyed 3,600 homes and very few buildings survived at all.
The Texas coastline is preparing for a potentially devastating strike from Hurricane Ike this weekend as the storm regains strength. The center of the storm is currently 145 north of the western tip of Cuba and moving toward the northwest at 8 mph.
Ike’s interaction with land near Cuba took a lot out of it as it dropped to a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 85 mph. However, the storm is expected to fully recover and regain strength as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico, possibly becoming a category 3 storm by the time it makes landfall. Current modeling indicates the storm is headed for a collision course with land Friday night striking between Corpus Christi and Port Lavaca, Texas.
All residents from northern Mexico to those on the northern Texas coastline should begin making preparations for the storm immediately. As the storm regains strength, it is expected to gain in size as well and will most likely impact Houston and Brownsville as well. Residents should review their emergency plans and absolutely not hesitate if advised to evacuate by emergency officials.
Texas Governor Rick Perry began preparations for a potential major hit from the storm and emergency assets are being prepositioned should they be needed. Some people with special medical needs will begin evacuating inland Wednesday and the pace and number of evacuations will increase as the storm nears and the path becomes more clear.
Hurricane Ike continues to wreak havoc on its trek west as it struck Cuba Monday morning. The storm made landfall as a category 3 storm but has since been downgraded to a category 2 with sustained winds of 100 mph. Four storms have claimed 321 lives in Haiti, 59 from Ike alone, but thus far no deaths in Cuba have been reported. Ike is however expected to make a near direct hit to Havana where old, decaying historic buildings are quite vulnerable.
The Florida Keys which had been under an evacuation order now appear to have escaped Ike’s wrath. Residents along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast however may not be so lucky. The current predicted path has the hurricane heading northwest toward those areas with a potential landfall Saturday sometime. Worst of all, as the storm enters and transits the Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to regain strength, returning to its category 3 status.
New Orleans, which is still recovering from Hurricane Gustav, is naturally on edge. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Sunday for Hurricane Ike and warned residents to be ready to evacuate again. The concern of course is that residents will let “hurricane fatigue” set in and fail to evacuate if it is required. “We are likely going to have to become accustomed to evacuating more frequently than when we were younger,” Jindal said.
Category 4 Hurricane Ike pummeled the Turks and Caicos Islands Saturday night and Sunday morning with dangerous winds, sea surge and rain as it continues its trek west. At 3:00am MDT the storm was 215 miles east-northeast of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba moving west-southwest at 15 mph.
The National Hurricane Center has described this storm as “extremely dangerous” so all countries and interests in the area are keeping a vary close eye on the storm. On its current track the storm will move over the southeastern Bahamas this morning and then onto or near eastern Cuba Sunday night. Latest measurements had the storm with 135 mph and some strengthening is indeed possible before it strikes Cuba. Whether it holds that strength as it passes Cuba will depend on how long it interacts with land. Current models showing it going directly over the island and weaking a bit but it is expected to regain strength as it enters the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
South Florida and those in the Florida Keys need to watch Ike very closely. Vistors to the Keys were already being asked to leave in anticipation of the storm hitting the islands. Florida Governor Charlie Crist said Saturday, “We continue to watch with much concern the track of Hurricane Ike. Ike has grown rapidly into a dangerous storm that continues to move … toward Florida.”
It is still much too early to tell what the storm will do once it hits the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday. Models indicate a potential strike anywhere between Texas and Alabama later in the week. Much can and most likely will change between now and then.