Hurricane Ike UPDATE: Texans Told: Flee or ‘Face Certain Death’ as Ike Nears
It appears that hurricane Ike is going to be BAD. Texans are being urged to get out now, without delay.
Cars and trucks streamed inland and chemical companies buttoned up their plants Thursday as a gigantic Hurricane Ike took aim at the heart of the U.S. refining industry and threatened to send a wall of water crashing toward Houston.
Nearly 1 million people along the Texas coast were ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm, including Galveston Island where the National Weather Service warned residents to flee or “face certain death.”
In a calculated risk aimed at avoiding total gridlock, authorities told most people in the nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston, to just hunker down.
Ike was steering almost directly for the city, where gleaming skyscrapers, the nation’s biggest refinery and NASA’s Johnson Space Center lie in areas vulnerable to wind and floodwaters. Forecasters said the storm was likely to come ashore as a Category 3, with winds up to 130 mph.
But the storm was so big, it could inflict a punishing blow even in those areas that do not get a direct hit. Forecasters warned that because of Ike’s size and the state’s shallow coastal waters, it could produce a surge, or wall of water, 20 feet high, and waves of perhaps 50 feet. It could also dump 10 inches or more of rain.
Hurricane Ike heads towards Houston and authorities in the Houston area and along the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast ordered hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate Thursday as Ike bore down with hurricane-force winds that stretched across more than 200 miles and were expected to gain even more strength.
Forecasters issued a hurricane warning for the Texas Gulf Coast from the Louisiana state line to near Corpus Christi. The warning, which also extended east along much of the Louisiana coast to Morgan City, means hurricane conditions could reach the coast by late Friday with the front edge of the storm before its powerful center hits land over the weekend.
Ike is expected to become at least a Category 3 storm, meaning winds upward of 111 mph, before it comes ashore, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
Hurricane Ike Aims at Houston; Evacuations Called
The system’s strongest winds extend as far as 115 miles (185 kilometers) from the eye, up from 35 miles yesterday, the Miami- based National Hurricane Center said today. Ike’s wind field is now larger than that of Katrina, the storm that devastated New Orleans in 2005, said Jeff Masters, the director of meteorology at private forecaster Weather Underground Inc.
“The total amount of energy is more powerful than Katrina, so we could be seeing a storm surge that could rival Katrina,” Masters said. The storm is so large “the location doesn’t matter much; it is going to inundate a huge part of the Texas coast.”
Galveston, parts of southern Houston and areas south of the city and near the Texas coast were under a mandatory evacuation order starting at noon today, local officials said at a press conference. The coast may see a storm surge of as much as 20 feet (6 meters). Ike is following a track similar to the 1900 Galveston hurricane that killed 8,000 people.
Officials in Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Matagorda and Galveston counties ordered about 564,063 people to leave homes that are now in Ike’s path.
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