September 11, 2008
If you live in the Galveston, Texas area and are reading this, turn off the computer, pack up and LEAVE. Now. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued an unprecedented hurricane warning for those in the path of Hurricane Ike in the Galveston area: If you stay, you die. The statement, entitled “Life Threatening Inundation Likely! reads, in part, “Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two-story homes will face certain death.” How much plainer could it be?
The storm surge along the Galveston Bay shoreline is expected to be 15 to 22 feet when Hurricane Ike makes landfall between about 10 PM Friday night and 2 AM Saturday morning. Water will completely overwash Galveston island, with catastrophic flooding. It’s estimated that the massive storm, which is about 700 miles across, could affect about 40 percent of the Gulf Coast.
The NWS statement states: “All neighborhoods…and possible 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. Many residences of average construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere. Vehicles left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads will be swamped…Some may be washed away by the water. Entire flood-prone coastal communities will be cut off. Water levels may exceed nine feet for more than a mile inland. Coastal residents in multi-story facilities risk being cut off. Conditions will be worsened by battering waves. Such waves will exacerbate property damage…with massive destruction of homes…including those of block construction. Damage from beach erosion could take years to repair.“
Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas has already told the 60,000 island residents to leave. Roads are crowded with those fleeing the storm — – the normal one-hour drive to Houston is now taking hours, as vehicles clog I-45 and the only bridge providing an exit from Galveston island. Port of Houston spokesperson Linda Whitlock said all ships in port were told to leave. Houston’s two major airports — William P. Hobby and George Bush Intercontinental — have halted all commercial flights. Winds are expected to reach 90 m.p.h. in downtown Houston. The coastal areas threatened by Hurricane Ike are notably lined with oil refineries and other heavy industry facilities.
The hurricane, larger geographically than Hurricane Katrina was in 2005, is presently expected to make landfall just south of Galveston, near Freeport in Brazoria County. It may be the worst storm to strike coastal Texas since Hurricane Carla, which made landfall near Corpus Christi in 1961. Galveston — with its notable historic districts and million-dollar beach homes — was the site of the deadliest weather disaster in American history, which occurred when the Great Storm of September 8, 1900 caused at least 6,000 fatalities.
Mandatory evacuations were also ordered for coastal areas northeast and southwest of Galveston in Brazoria, Chambers and Matagorda counties. Voluntary evacuations were underway in parts of Jackson County and in San Patricio and Victoria counties.
Read more hurricane news.
Photo credit: Galveston County Daily News
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