Weather In Review

GALVESTON, Texas —  A colossal Hurricane Ike menaced the darkened Texas coast early Saturday, ensuring a sleepless night for thousands who huddled and waited to find out if a gamble to face the storm head-on could cost them their lives.

Before the eye even crossed land, the first bands were punishing. Wind-whipped waves surged over a 17-foot seawall in Galveston and filled streets with waist-high water. Homes were flooding, hundreds of thousands were without power and there was fear hurricane-force winds could shatter the sparkling skyscrapers that define the skyline of America's fourth-largest city.

About 4.5 million people were without power in the Houston area as Hurricane Ike slammed the Texas coast. A utility spokesman says it could take weeks before all the power in the nation's fourth-largest city was restored.

Rescue crews worried daybreak would bring a nightmare scenario: Thousands who defied evacuation orders and became trapped in submerged communities.


"We don't know what we are going to find. We hope we will find the people who are left here alive and well," Galveston Mayor Lynda Ann Thomas said. "We are keeping our fingers crossed all the people who stayed on Galveston Island managed to survive this."

The storm began battering the coast Friday afternoon, and the eye was likely to cross early Saturday morning. As of 1 a.m. EDT, Ike was centered about 35 miles southeast of Galveston, moving at 12 mph. It was close to a Category 3 storm with winds of 110 mph. Forecasters predicted it would come ashore somewhere near Galveston and pass almost directly over Houston.

Though 1 million people fled coastal communities near where the storm was projected to make landfall, authorities in three counties alone said roughly 90,000 stayed behind. As the front of the storm moved into Galveston, fire crews rescued nearly 300 people who changed their minds and fled at the last minute, wading through floodwaters carrying clothes and other posessions.

"The unfortunate truth is we're going to have to go in tomorrow and put our people in the tough situation to save people who did not choose wisely. We'll probably do the largest search and rescue operation that's ever been conducted in the state of Texas," said Andrew Barlow, spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry.

In Houston, some low-lying communities that were ordered evacuated flooded, but because the storm struck overnight, officials had no idea how bad the damage was. Storm surge was pushing 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. Thousands of homes could be damaged, a spokesman for the mayor said, but it was too dangerous to go out and canvass the neighborhood at the height of the storm.

In a move designed to avoid highway gridlock, most of Houston's 2 million residents heeded orders to hunker down at home. On the far east side of Houston, Claudia Macias was awake with her newborn and was trying unsuccessfully not to think about the trees swaying outside her doors, or the wind vibrating through her windows. She had been through other storms, but this time was different because she was a new mother.

"I don't know who's going to sleep here tonight, maybe the baby," said Macias, 34.

At 600 miles across, the storm was nearly as big as Texas itself, and threatened to give the state its worst pounding in a generation. Because of the hurricane's size, the state's shallow coastal waters and its largely unprotected coastline, forecasters said the biggest threat would be flooding and storm surge, with Ike expected to hurl a wall of water two stories high — 20 to 25 feet — at the coast.

Fire fighters left three buildings to burn Galveston because water was too high for fire trucks to reach them. But there was some good news: a stranded freighter with 22 men aboard made it through the brunt of the storm safely, and a tugboat was on the way to save them.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency 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. At least 3,500 FEMA officials were stationed in Texas and Louisiana.

If Ike is as bad as feared, the storm could travel up Galveston Bay and send a surge up the Houston Ship Channel and into the port of Houston. The port is the nation's second-busiest, and is an economically vital complex of docks, pipelines, depots and warehouses that receives automobiles, consumer products, industrial equipment and other cargo from around the world and ships out vast amounts of petrochemicals and agricultural products.

The storm also could force water up the seven bayous that thread through Houston, swamping neighborhoods so flood-prone that they get inundated during ordinary rainstorms.

The oil and gas industry was closely watching Ike because it was headed straight for the nation's biggest complex of refineries and petrochemical plants. Wholesale gasoline prices jumped to around $4.85 a gallon for fear of shortages.

Ike would be the first major hurricane to hit a U.S. metropolitan area since Katrina devastated New Orleans three years ago. For Houston, it would be the first major hurricane since Alicia in August 1983 came ashore on Galveston Island, killing 21 people and causing $2 billion in damage. Houston has since then seen a population explosion, so many of the residents now in the storm's path have never experienced the full wrath of a hurricane.

Though Ike's center was heading for Texas, it spawned thunderstorms, shut down schools and knocked out power throughout southern Louisiana on Friday. An estimated 1,200 people were in state shelters in Monroe and Shreveport, and another 220 in medical needs shelters.

In southeastern Louisiana near Houma, Ike breached levees, and flooded more than 1,800 homes. 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 continued to refuse National Guard assistance to flee their homes, authorities said.

No deaths had been officially reported, but crews expected to resume searching at daybreak near Corpus Christi for a man believed swept out to sea as Ike closed in.

  1. Today's Best
  2. Top Shows
  3. Best of BTR
    1. Loading

      Native Trailblazers Christmas Special!

      The Native Trailblazers 5th Annual Christmas Special!!!

    2. White House Travel Summit

      Study abroad and global citizenship were front and center at a recent White House Travel Summit.

    3. Road Trip 2

      “Road Trip 2” with a WWE Hall Of Famer and International Superstars Abdullah The Butcher and Kevin Sullivan.

    4. Magdalene & Thistle Farms

      Reverend Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene & Thistle Farms, shares how we can use hope and love as the most powerful force to affect social change from her latest book, The Way of Tea & Justice.

    5. James Colt Harrison and Diana Saenger

      Film critics James Colt Harrison and Diana Saenger drop by to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of The Shawshank Redemption, an acclaimed movie that earned seven Oscar nominations. Actors Morgan Freeman, Clancy Brown and Gil Bellows have been invited to call in.

    6. College Bowl Breakdown

      SLZE Sports Breaks down ALL the college bowls and gives you a reason to watch them all!

    7. Seema Iyer

      Interview with Seema Iyer, Esq., Host of "The Docket" on Shift by MSNBC (show debuted yesterday 12-16-14) - topics included legalized pot industry in Colorado and rape allegations against Bill Cosby

    8. Victoria Moran

      Laura Theodore the Jazzy Vegetarian welcomes Best- Selling author and holistic coach, Victoria Moran to chat about tips and recipes for hosting a healthy holiday meal.

    9. Jewel

      That's Entertainment's host Tammy Jones-Gibbs will be talking with singer, songwriter and four time grammy nominee recording artist, Jewel about being a judge on the hit NBC's cappella musical competition, "The Sing-Off.

    10. The WOW Project

      Jessica Peterson is a master in helping entrepreneurs get a WOW message out to their ideal client. She is the queen of utilizing quiz's to connect with your target audience to engage and inspire them.

    11. Emily Fonda

      Emily Fonda is staring in one of the hottest movies of 2015, Fifty Shades of Grey. Emily joins me to discuss her role and delivering these iconic words "Mr. Grey will see you now".

    12. 2014 Book of the Year

      Authors on the Air host Pam Stack presents the nominees and winner for 2014 Book of the Year.

    13. Mark Reis

      Mike Reis, is the father of Chris Reis, NFL football star with the New Orleans Saints The story of a father's addiction to alcohol and sex is heart-rending and the journey of healing and reconciliation between father and son, deeply inspiring.

    14. Lt. Col Robert Adelhelm

      On tonight’s show, WE will have guest, Retired Lt. Col Robert Adelhelm. He will talk to us tonight about the recent release of the CIA reports that exposed the “torture” techniques used by the CIA!

    15. TV Guide's Michael Logan

      Michael Logan has been TV Guide's daytime television reporter for 25 years this fall, and he came to Brandon's Buzz to reminisce about his quarter-century tenure at the magazine and to dish about some of his memorable interviews.

    1. Loading

      Small Business Unstuck

      Host Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He has founded and run small businesses with a great deal of success and failure for more than 15 years. This is a business radio show where he shares all the craziness of small business. It’s that craziness that actually makes it exciting, interesting and totally unpredictable.

    2. America's Most Haunted

      Official Internet radio show of forthcoming epic paranormal investigation book by Eric Olsen and "Haunted Housewife" Theresa Argie.