Surely A Large Human
Date registered: Jun 2006
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Ike slams Texas with high winds, flooding
Last update: 2:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 13, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Residents in southeast Texas were facing the ravages of high winds and coastal flooding Saturday morning, after Hurricane Ike rammed into the gulf state overnight. Though weakening, the deadly storm was accelerating north with gusting winds and potentially devastating heavy rains.
Punishing winds and more rain were still in the immediate forecast from Houston east to Louisiana. By Sunday morning, the center of the remains of Ike, a tropical rainstorm event, forecast to be over southern Missouri, according to AccuWeather.
The storm made landfall early Saturday morning with winds of more than 100 mph at Galveston as a Cat. 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. It's unknown how many people may have died in the storm but even before daylight, officials were calling the storm damage extensive.
At a Saturday morning briefing held by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said an estimated 2.2 million people in Texas evacuated ahead of Ike, and about 130,000 people in Louisiana fled coastal communities.
But as many as 90,000 in the Galveston region and other Texas coastal communities ignored evacuation orders, officials said. Chertoff told reporters that state, Coast Guard and Dept. of Defense helicopter crew were doing rescue airlifts in the Galveston area early Saturday afternoon. There had been several unconfirmed reports of deaths from the storm, Chertoff said, but officials would have to wait until search and rescue operations were further along before they could be more specific.
From Galveston to Houston, thousands of homes, businesses and government buildings were flooded, roads were washed out and more than 3 million people were without power. Several fires burned out of control, particularly in the Galveston area, where emergency crews were unable to reach the burning buildings.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry mobilized 7,500 National Guard troops and his homeland security chief, Steve McGraw, said rescues would start as soon as crews could safely go out, according to media reports. In some counties, curfews had been extended into the early afternoon hours on Saturday.
With refineries in the area shut down for the storm, the national average price for gasoline rose almost 6 cents a gallon to $3.733, according to AAA, the Oil Information Service and Wright Express.
President Bush said the government has suspended Environmental Protection Agency waivers on some reformulated gasoline to make it easier for foreign imports to reach the U.S., according to media reports.
"In the meantime, the Department of Energy and state authorities will be monitoring a gasoline crisis so consumers are not being gouged," Bush said.
Centerpoint Energy Inc. (CNP) spokesman Floyd LeBlanc told a Houston television station early Saturday that virtually all of the company's 3 million customers were without power and it could take weeks to get the electricity completely restored. Centerpoint won't be able to even begin assessing damage until the winds and drenching rains abate and crews can get out into the services areas. About 7,000 extra workers are expected to arrive in the Houston area Sunday and Monday, LeBlanc said, to augment repair crews.
Hospitals, health-care, police and other public safety facilities would be given priority for restoring power, he said. "Based on experience, we'll make large gains early in the process but for some customers, it'll be weeks" before the electricity's back on, he told KHOU television.
In downtown Houston, while the power remained on in some places, high winds damaged many tall buildings, blasting out windows and carpeting the streets with broken glass and debris.
Ike's winds smashed windows on Texas' tallest skyscraper, the 75-story J.P. Morgan Chase Tower in downtown Houston. Nearly every window on one side of the tower's first 30 floors was broken.
The historic Brennan's restaurant in downtown Houston was destroyed by a fire in which three people, including a young child, reportedly were injured.
According to the Associated Press, Wilson Shaffer, chief of the National Weather Service's evaluation division, said the storm surge was smaller than predicted, but the region wasn't out of the clear as the storm continued on its path. The highest surge Saturday morning was about 13.5 feet at Sabine Pass in Texas, according to tidal gauges. The surge at Galveston was 11 feet, about half of what was predicted.
The storm surge flooded Galveston's historic district with seven feet of water. Curfew orders remain in effect for Galveston until dawn Monday.
Some 30 miles inland, storm surge pushing up through Galveston Bay was sending water into a neighborhood near Johnson Space Center where Houston Mayor Bill White had made rounds earlier with a bullhorn trying to compel people to leave. Nearby, the popular Kemah Boardwalk at the mouth of Galveston Bay, ringed by million-dollar homes, was submerged, state officials said.
FEMA said more than 5.5 million prepackaged meals were being sent to the region, along with more than 230 generators and 5.6 million liters of water, the AP reported. At least 3,500 FEMA officials were stationed in Texas and Louisiana.
Refineries shut down
Officials were hoping to get out Saturday to inspect facilities around Galveston Bay, the Houston Ship Channel and the port of Houston. The Houston Ship Channel, a 25-mile waterway that handles more foreign tonnage than any other U.S. port, is second only to Southern Louisiana and New Orleans ports in terms of overall volume.
Even if the storm damage to the area's petrochemical refineries is minimal, it'll take several days to start operations again, aggravating already dwindling supplies of petroleum products. Not surprisingly, U.S. gasoline futures moved higher in Friday trades ahead of the storm's landfall.
A total of 13 Texas refineries were shut down due to Hurricane Ike as of Friday, according to the Energy Department. The refineries located in Port Arthur, Houston/Texas City and Corpus Christi regions have a total operable capacity of 3.6 million barrels a day.
The shutdowns include Exxon Mobil Corp.'s (XOM) Baytown refinery, the nation's largest facility, with a capacity of nearly 567,000 barrels of crude a day. Also shut in was BP's (BP) Texas City refinery, with a capacity of 460,000 barrels a day.
On Exxon Mobil's Web site, the company said it will begin its post-storm assessment process as soon as it's safe to do so. Until then, it is unknown if and how the Gulf Coast oil and gas production facilities were affected, the company said.
In southeastern Louisiana near Houma, Ike breached levees, and flooded more than 1,800 homes, the AP reported. More than 160 people had to be rescued from sites of severe flooding, and Gov. Bobby Jindal said he expected those numbers to grow. In some extreme instances, residents of low-lying communities where waters continued to rise still refused National Guard assistance to flee their homes, authorities said.
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