Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ike Poses Major Threat to Texas Coast

Perry warns Texans in Ike's path: Get out now
By R.G. RATCLIFFE (Austin Bureau, Houston Chronicle)
Sept. 11, 2008, 7:47PM

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry today urged coastal residents in Hurricane Ike's path to evacuate immediately, describing it as a storm that could swamp houses in Galveston and other areas to at least their eaves.

"My message to Texans is, in the projected impact area, finish your preparations because this is a storm that can have extraordinary impact on them, on their personal belongings," Perry said. "It's on its way."

While the storm presently is a Category 2 hurricane, Perry said it could be at Category 4 level by the time it is expected to make landfall on Saturday.

At 7 p.m. CDT, the storm was centered about 370 miles southeast of Galveston, moving to the west-northwest at 12 mph. Top sustained winds were 100 mph.

"I want to emphasize what a dangerous storm this is going to be," he said. "The latest estimates show Ike is going to be coming to shore in the next 48 hours, packing winds in excess of 120 mph and a storm surge of 14 feet or more. And I want to emphasize the more."

Jack Colley, chief of the Governor's Division of Emergency Management, described the storm as hitting like a tidal wave.

"This is a surge tsunami," he said. "This is not rising water. This is water that goes beyond rising."

Regardless of whether Ike is at Category 3 or 4 when it crosses the coast, Colley said, much of Galveston Island will be inundated.

He added that the storm has made nine major changes in course, so most of the coast should be prepared for evacuation.

National Weather Service forecaster Walt Zaleski said the storm also may have major impacts in the San Antonio, Austin and Waco areas because of a high potential for tornadoes in its outer bands.

"These are not going to be your typical Texas tornadoes that are half a mile to a mile wide," Zaleski said. "These are going to be small, short-lived, fast-moving, invisible, often shrouded in rainfall."

Zaleski said tropical storm- force winds of 40-50 mph extend 250 miles from the storm's center.

"This is a big storm," he said. "This is one of the biggest storms we've seen in a while, in terms of its girth."

Perry said this morning that 2,650 government officials listened on a conference call to prepare for the storm. He said he has activated 7,500 members of the National Guard.

The governor said there also are 1,300 buses and 100 ambulances helping to evacuate those who cannot do it themselves. Additionally, six C-130 aircraft from the Texas State Guard are participating in the evacuation of Galveston.

Several lessons that have been learned from Hurricane Rita, in September 2005, have resulted in a plan to move gasoline to retailers in evacuation zones, Perry said, and wristbands will be used to help the state keep track of evacuees' location.

Perry also noted that global positioning satellite systems were put on the evacuation buses so that, when Ike changed direction, the buses could be redirected from Corpus Christi to Galveston.

He said Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas ordered the evacuation of the island after viewing a slide showing projections of the inundation of her city.

"If your house has an eve that's 14 feet, it would be completely under water," Perry said. "That's the type of surge we're talking about all through Galveston and all the way up into the (Houston) Ship Channel."

If a Category 5 storm went up the Ship Channel with no evacuation, Perry said, the estimated death toll would be 1.5 million people.

He stressed that the impact of Ike could also be devastating if people do not follow evacuation orders.

"I cannot over-emphasize the danger that is facing us," he said. "It's going to cause some substantial damage. It's going to knock out power. It's going to cause massive flooding.

"There is a point in time when Mother Nature can overwhelm you with her power, but hopefully, this is not the case."

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