Hurricane Ike is strengthening, and looms large in the Gulf of Mexico. It looks like it's going to hit squarely on the Texas coastline, and may cause significant damage to the coast and the energy infrastructure that dominates that part of the country.
The storm looks to come ashore near Galveston, which is just South of Houston. Houston is in for a real rough ride if the storm runs along this particular track. Depending on the track, storm surge could be a huge problem for Galveston and the Houston area in general.
Galveston Island is already under a full mandatory evacuation, and many others aren't waiting around either. The NWS isn't messing around either, they seem to think this storm is going to intensify and cause catastrophic damage to the area:
LIFE THREATENING INUNDATION LIKELY! ALL NEIGHBORHOODS…AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES…WILL BE INUNDATED DURING HIGH 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 CUTOFF. WATER LEVELS MAY EXCEED 9 FEET FOR MORE THAN A MILE INLAND. COASTAL RESIDENTS IN MULTI-STORY FACILITIES RISK BEING CUTOFF. 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.I nevertheless expect to see folks heading to the local beaches to ride the surf or engage in hurricane parties, despite the warnings and dire predictions.
Since I posted this overnight, the situation has become even more dire as the Coast Guard has been called upon to evacuate areas along the Texas Coast. The energy industry is battening down the hatches and hoping that their infrastructure in the Gulf doesn't take it on the chin. Unfortunately, I think that's exactly what's going to happen, which means that gas and energy prices are sure to spike in coming days. It's already sparked a gas panic.
Floodwaters are already surging into Galveston.
The forecasts predict that Ike will make landfall with 115 mph winds. That's bad enough, but the real killer will be the storm surge, which predictions suggest may top 20 feet. That means all low lying areas near the coast could find themselves destroyed. The coast is already getting pummeled by strong waves and flooding is already evident in some areas.
The storm wobbles its way to the West, and the storm surge is already present. People need to heed the warnings that the killer from these storms isn't necessarily the wind, but the storm surge. That's what caused most of the devastation along the Gulf Coast during Rita and Katrina, and it's what will do the majority of the damage from Ike. Here's a projection of what the surge will do to the Texas coast.
It's not pretty.
Meanwhile, the Houston Mayor, Bill White (D) has made the controversial decision to not call for a mandatory evacuation. He cites the problems associated with evacuations prior to Hurricane Rita when some evacuees were killed while trying to evacuate the city.
But officials in Houston took a calculated risk and told people to stay put. That order was an attempt to avoid a repeat of the chaos and death that ensued after residents were ordered to evacuate Houston when Hurricane Rita threatened the city in 2005. In that instance, the number of deaths attributed to the evacuation was more than ten times higher than the toll from the storm.I think this is a serious mistake on his part; he's learned nothing from the New Orleans experience. The state has been assisting local jurisdictions evacuate special needs individuals and certain areas along the coast.
Forecasters warn that because of Ike's size and the shallow Texas coastal waters, it could produce waves of perhaps 50 feet. It could also dump 10 inches or more of rain. Ike would be the first major hurricane to hit a U.S. metropolitan area since Katrina devastated New Orleans three years ago
"It will be, in candor, something that people will be scared of," Houston Mayor Bill White warned. "A number of people in this community have not experienced the magnitude of these winds."
Gov. Rick Perry today ordered the continued deployment of state resources in anticipation of Hurricane Ike’s landfall along the Texas coast. At the request of local officials today, the state began assisting with the evacuations of medical special needs residents and those who cannot self-evacuate. This action follows the governor’s disaster declaration for 88 counties issued on Monday and readies the state to provide assistance to local officials. A presidential disaster declaration was also granted today and includes emergency protective measures for 25 of the 88 counties requested by Gov. Perry on Monday.Meanwhile, I fear for these people. They're going to attempt and ride out the storm along the coast, in trailers no less. There may be nothing left of those areas when Ike is through.
“Hurricane Ike is now in the Gulf of Mexico and making its approach toward our coast,” said Gov. Perry. “The next few days will be crucial for residents to follow the direction of local leaders and to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their families.”
Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued by local officials in Brazoria and parts of Matagorda County. Voluntary evacuation orders have been ordered for Galveston, San Patricio and Victoria counties and parts of Jackson County, and the City of Corpus Christi.
Hurricane Ike isn't just affecting the Texas coast; New Orleans and the Louisiana coast, still recovering from Gustav, is bracing for the storm's effects. There are already numerous closures and evacuations there. Stormpulse has more maps and tracking information. The Texas and Louisiana coastline is already getting hit with tropical force winds, and hurricane force winds are slowly approaching. However, as I have repeatedly noted, the main threat from this storm is not the wind, but the storm surge.
Lou Minatti has ongoing commentary on the situation in and around his hometown of Houston. Good luck!
Galveston is already seeing flooding as per their webcams - which will work only as long as the power holds out.
The complacency of many in and around Houston might be because they were hassled during the Rita evacuation, but this storm isn't looking good by any stretch. It's being predicted to be the worst storm to hit Texas in 50 years. From the latest advisory:
COASTAL STORM SURGE FLOODING OF UP TO 20 FEET...WITH A FEW SPOTS TO NEAR 25 FEET...ABOVE NORMAL TIDE ALONG WITH LARGE AND DANGEROUS BATTERING WAVES... CAN BE EXPECTED NEAR AND TO THE EAST OF WHERE THE CENTER OF IKE MAKES LANDFALL. THE SURGE EXTENDS A GREATER THAN USUAL DISTANCE FROM THE CENTER DUE TO THE LARGE SIZE OF THE CYCLONE. WATER LEVELS HAVE ALREADY RISEN BY MORE THAN 5 FEET ALONG MUCH OF THE NORTHWESTERN GULF COAST.As previously noted, flooding is already present in Galveston and other coastal areas, and landfall is still hours away. And I fear that we'll be hearing more of these stories in coming days, though without the happy ending:
IKE IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 5 TO 10 INCHES OVER EASTERN TEXAS AND EXTREME SOUTHWESTERN LOUISIANA...WITH ISOLATED AMOUNTS OF 15 INCHES POSSIBLE.
ISOLATED TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE TODAY OVER PORTIONS OF SOUTHERN LOUISIANA AND EXTREME SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI. ISOLATED TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE TONIGHT OVER PORTIONS OF SOUTHWESTERN LOUISIANA AND SOUTHEASTERN TEXAS.
Shortly before noon today, Galveston police rescued a disabled couple from their flooded home near 57th Street and Avenue R, a neighborhood protected by the seawall.UPDATE:
Plodding through waist-deep water, officers pulled a rescue boat from 61st Street — then still dry — to the home of Frank Urbina, 83, and his wife, Celia, 72.
The couple's son, Philip Urbina, said the family had planned to ride out the hurricane in their two-story home, but became alarmed when water began flooding the first floor.
Although confined to beds because of frail health, the couple seemed calm throughout the rescue and were transported to an Austin shelter. Philip Urbina and his wife, Elizabeth, returned to their partially flooded home to wait out the storm.
Instapundit has a big roundup (and thanks for the link).
Again, I'm hoping that the predictions are wrong. Galveston and Harris counties are under curfew through tomorrow.
Galveston Mayor Lyda Thomas, disappointed with the number of people who decided to remain on the island, announced this afternoon that a curfew would take effect for Galveston and Pelican Island starting at 8 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. Saturday.I certainly hope that the reports and predictions of a 20 foot storm surge turn out to be overwrought, but if you know that Galveston's storm wall is only 15 feet tall, and they're predicting a 20 foot storm surge, why would you want to remain and risk your life? I can't fathom why people living on Galveston and other low lying areas didn't evacuate while they had a chance, knowing that the only thing protecting them from a storm surge might be inadequate under the predicted circumstances.
The curfew will remain in effect over the same periods through Monday morning, she said. The mayor also announced that a shelter of last resort has been established at Ball High School, 4115 Ave. O.
Meanwhile, Harris County has called for a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in areas covered by a mandatory evacuation order for Friday and Saturday nights.
At 6 p.m. today, Ike was 100 miles southeast of Galveston with Category 2 winds of 110 mph. Weather forecasters said the storm may grow to a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall late today or early tomorrow. It is currently described as a strong category 2.
Ike's massive size likely will contribute to a 15-20 foot storm surge upon landfall.
Dr. Melissa Clouthier is live blogging the storm from Woodlands, Texas. Good luck and hope your power stays on so you can report in.
This storm is so large that it's causing problems in Louisiana, as a levee in Slidell has failed and some levees have failed in Terrebonne and St. Mary Parish, but the levees in and around New Orleans are intact. Areas outside the New Orleans levees may see flooding tonight into tomorrow.
A storm surge model produced by the Center for the Study of Public Heath Effects of Hurricanes at LSU predicts surge from Ike will reach near 10 feet on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish and could reach that high in southeasternmost St. Tammany Parish.It's going to be a real difficult night along the Gulf Coast.
The National Weather Service has predicted up to 9 feet of surge on east-facing coastlines in the New Orleans area through this evening.
Good luck. And our thoughts and prayers are with you.