Very Large Hurricane Ike Surges Onto Galveston Island

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:17 PM CDT
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Very Large Hurricane Ike Surges Onto Galveston Island

AUSTIN, Texas, September 12, 2008 (ENS) - Rushing across the Gulf of Mexico towards Galveston and Houston, Texas, Hurricane Ike is predicted to be a Category 3 hurricane before landfall at around 1 o'clock Saturday morning local time.

On its current predicted path of travel, Ike's eye will cross slightly west of Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel, creating a storm surge over 16 feet in Galveston Bay, Sabine Lake and Port Arthur, which is expected to put these communities completely underwater.

Forecasters say coastal storm surge flooding of up to 20 feet with a few spots to near 25 feet above normal tides, along with large and dangerous battering waves can be expected to the east of where Ike makes landfall.

The surge extends a greater than usual distance from the center due to the large size of the storm. Water levels have already risen by more than five feet along much of the northwestern Gulf Coast.

The onset of tropical storm winds began along some areas of the Texas coast at about 10 a.m. today and the onset of hurricane force winds is expected late this afternoon.

Throughout the night, the state's emergency management team directed numerous rescue missions to evacuate citizens with medical special needs from these areas before sunrise this morning.

Texas Task Force 1 is currently conducting high water rescues along the coast. The task force launched a rescue mission Thursday evening, evacuating 476 medical special needs patients and some family members by air and ambulances.

Additionally, in the early morning hours, Texas Task Force 1, supported by Texas Military Forces and Department of Defense aircraft, evacuated a total of 70 patients, including ten critical care and ten neonatal patients, from the South East Texas Medical Center in Port Arthur which is projected to end up under 14 feet of water.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami emphasized this afternoon that "Ike is a very large hurricane and regardless of where the center of the hurricane makes landfall, the effects will be felt at large distances from the center."

Forecasters say the greatest storm surge will occur within the onshore flow near or just after landfall. A pre-positioned storm surge gage indicates that the water level has already risen more than nine feet on part of Galveston Island.

The city of Galveston is under a mandatory evacuation order, and most residents had cleared out by last night.

Ike has been moving northwest near 12 miles per hour, a track expected to continue today with a turn toward the north expected on Saturday.

Maximum sustained winds remain near 105 mph with higher gusts. Ike is now a category 2 on the hurricane scale, but is expected to reach the coast as a category 3, considered a major hurricane.

"Do not venture outside in the eye," the National Hurricane Center warns, saying that the strongest winds and highest surge will likely occur near or just after the eye makes landfall. Stronger wind gusts are likely on high-rise buildings.

Ike is expected to dump rainfall amounts of five to 10 inches over eastern Texas and extreme southestern Louisiana with some places forecast to receive 15 inches of rain.

{Photo: The storm surge from advancing Hurricane Ike slams onto Galveston Island. September 12, 2008. (Photo by James G. Lea)}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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