Ike Deals Significant Blow to Texas and Gulf Coast
Landfall at Galveston; Aftermath assessments beginning
Hurricane Ike fell just short of major hurricane status at landfall, but don't tell that to those in the vast area impacted by the storm. Landfall occurred at Galveston, Texas, shortly after 2 a.m. CDT. Winds at the time were sustained at 110 mph, or 1 mph shy of category 3. Due partly to the massive size of Ike, and the fact that it is still battering the region as a category 1 hurricane, it is still largely unknown what has happened in many locations.
A large storm surge has occurred from the upper Texas coast through Louisiana, and flooding even extended to portions of Mississippi and Alabama. Significant wind damage has also hit Houston proper, while widespread tree and structure damage is still ongoing over much of southeast Texas. As the storm continues to punch through the region, millions are currently without power.
Keep reading for more info on the known impacts of Ike in Texas and across the Gulf coast. For local weather info please see our full forecast, UnitedCast for tonight's game, and SkinsCast for tomorrow's season home opener.
Texas authorities are reporting that the largest search and rescue mission in the state's history is ongoing as Ike keeps rolling north.
In Galveston, large portions of the island were covered by surge waters, though it appears to have escaped a total washover, due partly to the eye passing right overhead. The location of landfall allowed the most significant storm surge, in the right front quadrant of the storm, to remain to the north of the island.
There have been several hundred rescues on and around the island according to local authorities interviewed overnight. Just how much of Ike's fury Galveston escaped is yet to be determined.
Houston found itself in the western eyewall of Ike as the storm made landfall. Winds in the area were over hurricane force, with 75 mph sustained winds reported at Houston Hobby airport. Gusts in the area neared and surpassed 100 mph. There has been extensive wind damage to the city, including numerous high-rise buildings like JPMorgan Chase Tower missing nearly all windows on at least one side.
KHOU in Houston reports Texas City, on the southwest portion of Galveston Bay, has been largely flooded but that most buildings are standing. A storm chaser in the city witnessed extreme conditions at landfall as the eyewall moved overhead.
In Beaumont, roughly 80 miles from the landfall location, winds gusted over hurricane force from midnight until 7 a.m., with a maximum recorded gust of 91 mph. Nearby, in Sabine Pass, storm surge set a new all-time record of 13.5 feet, besting storms like Hurricane Audrey in 1957 and Hurricane Rita of 2005.
Tropical storm wind warnings now extend north to Dallas and the Oklahoma border. It is likely that tree damage, some structural damage, and more power outages will occur north into this region during the day. Tornadoes will also be a threat across east Texas into Louisiana.
Heavy rains continue across the state as totals near 1 foot in some areas near the coast. Rain is expected to continue north through Texas and into the Midwest, but Ike will be picked up quickly by a system to the north and extensive rainfall flooding is not expected.
UPPER GULF COAST
In Louisiana, Ike has caused major flooding along coastal areas. Storm surge as far away as New Orleans was measured as high as 9 feet. Levees throughout the area that survived Gustav gave way with Ike. Roughly 300 miles from where the eye made landfall, thousands of homes are reported flooded in the parishes of southeast Louisiana.
In Mississippi and Alabama, roadways and low lying areas near the coast were covered with water. The event here was minor in an area plagued by hurricanes, but occurred at an incredible distance from the center of Ike.
WHAT WE STILL DO NOT KNOW
The storm is still ongoing in most places hit hardest; many response crews are waiting to head out and fully investigate. Some places along the coastline of upper Texas, Galveston Bay, and coastal Louisiana have not been reached yet. Surge flooding has also been reported well inland along rivers where ocean water backed up for miles as it was pushed ashore. The extent of wind damage to Houston and other populated ares will also need to be further assessed.
It typically takes a day or two for a real picture to emerge of what has occurred in an area hit by a storm. Because of Ike's size, the complete picture may take even longer to develop.
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