Ike has made a direct hit on Galveston. Here is the map as of 3:00 AM EST.

click on map for sharper image

Map courtesy of StormPulse. Click link to refresh.

This Weather Channel update on the Worst Impacts from Ike is as of 2:57 AM EST.

2:57 a.m. ET 9/13/2008
As of 1:00 a.m. CDT, Ike was located about 20 miles south-southeast of Galveston, Texas, with maximum sustained winds at 110 mph; a high-end Category 2 hurricane. The forward movement is toward the west-northwest at around 12 mph.

The latest pressure reading from an Air Force Hunter Aircraft of 952 millibars. Landfall is about 1 to 2 hours away.

A strike on Galveston Island is providing dangerous, perhaps life-threatening impacts. The inundation because of the water level rise may be locally catastrophic.

It has been well documented but it can’t be said enough. Because of Ike’s very large size, the water level rise produced by Ike will be larger than an average-size Category 2 hurricane.

The Oil Drum Follows Ike

As is typical, there is excellent commentary about Ike on The Oil Drum.

Updated 9/12 2300 EDT–next update in the morning when we know more about where and how much power/wind was involved. Hurricane Ike’s current track currently is headed directly for Houston/Galveston and is expected by the National Hurricane Center to be Category 2 (or perhaps a 3) at a late Friday/early Saturday am landfall, which remains in striking distance of over 5 million bpd of US petroleum refining capacity. (A little perspective: 5 MMBBL is about 30% of US capacity (about 15 MMBBL), and a bit less than 6% of global capacity (~85 MMBBL)).

Those interested in refinery damage should click the above link for continuing commentary.

Thousands Refuse To leave

AFP is reporting Hurricane Ike pounds Texas coast as thousands refuse to leave.

A gigantic hurricane roared onto the Texas Gulf coast early Saturday, driving a huge ocean surge over coastal areas where tens of thousands of people remained holed up in defiance of evacuation orders.

Ike, a powerful category two hurricane with winds raging at 175 kilometers (110 miles) per hour, was headed for a direct hit on Houston, the fourth largest US city and a major oil hub 70 kilometers (45 miles) inland from Galveston.

More than a million people fled inland in the hours before the Texas-size storm was due to make landfall between 0700 and 0800 GMT Saturday.

But officials said more than 100,000 residents of low-lying neighborhoods decided to ride out the storm despite warnings from the national weather service that a wall of water up to 25 feet (7.5 meters) high could mean “certain death” to those who stayed behind.

Gargantuan waves smashed over a 17-foot (five meter) seawall built to protect this island city as the center of Ike was about 35 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of Galveston , moving at about 20 kilometers (12 miles) an hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported.

Ike was pushing ashore waves measuring as high as a two-story house, swamping Galveston while blistering winds raked Houston, home to a major US port and key refineries.

As Ike bore down on Texas, companies abandoned 13 refineries representing a combined capacity of 3.7 million barrels of crude oil per day — a fifth of US refinery capacity.

In Galveston, the power went out across the island just before 0100 GMT Saturday, plunging the storm-stricken city into darkness.

Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas ordered a dusk-to-dawn curfew starting Friday and ending Monday morning. Chocolate-colored seawater flooded the streets as the storm surge intensified throughout the day, spoiling the city’s potable water system.

Two blazes broke out in the afternoon. Flames shot out of an unattended Galveston home near the oceanfront, while thick smoke from a ship repair warehouse darkened the sky over the city.

Firefighters, restricted by the high water, had to let the structures burn.

Jack Colley, from the Texas Department of Emergency Management, said officials estimated the storm’s economic impact would be “somewhere in between the 80-billion dollar and 100-billion-dollar range.”

Stranded Residents Call In Vain For Help

The Houston Chronicle is reporting Stranded Galveston residents call in vain for help.

Sept. 13, 2008, 1:20AM
As Hurricane Ike pushed a swelling surge onto Galveston Island this morning, many of the estimated 23,000 Galveston residents who ignored a mandatory evacuation order phoned for rescues to no avail because emergency workers were called off the streets, officials said.

Help wasn’t expected until after dangerous storm conditions subsided.

“We don’t know what we’re going to find tomorrow,” said the city’s mayor, Lyda Ann Thomas. “We hope we’ll find that the people who didn’t leave here are alive and well.”

City Manager Steve LeBlanc went so far as to ask the media not to photograph “certain things” in the aftermath, referring to the possibility of dead bodies.

Officials in Brazoria County said as many as 35 percent of residents in mandatory evacuation zones stayed behind, or about 67,000. That would put about 90,000 Texans in potentially surge-susceptible areas in the two counties.

As of 12:45 a.m., power outages were widespread, heavily concentrated from the northwestern corner of Beltway 8 stretching southward to Galveston and east to Baytown, the edge of CenterPoint Energy’s service area, spokesman Floyd LeBlanc said.

About 850,000 CenterPoint customers were in the dark. Counting additional outages north and east of the area in Entergy Texas’ region, the number was approaching or exceeding 1 million.

Ike’s massive size is expected to bring a storm surge of at least 25 feet at landfall.

The anticipated surge prompted Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to remark: “This is pretty much a worst-case scenario for flooding the Gulf Coast area.”

FEMA anticipates about 100,000 homes will be flooded and as many as several million people could be without power.

“It is a potentially catastrophic hurricane,” Chertoff said. “We will move as swiftly as possible to relieve suffering.”

Ike Pounds Texas Coast

Reuters is reporting Hurricane Ike pounds Texas coast, menaces Houston.

HOUSTON, Sept 13 – (Reuters) – Hurricane Ike pounded the Texas coast on Saturday, threatening to devastate towns along the Gulf of Mexico, shutting essential oil refineries and menacing Houston, the fourth-largest U.S. city.

The enormous hurricane, roughly the size of Texas itself, may be the worst storm to hit the state in nearly 50 years and is set to make landfall within hours, the National Hurricane Center said.

Ike’s center, preceded by its strongest winds, bore down on the barrier island city of Galveston, driving a wall of water 20 feet (6 metres) high and sending huge waves crashing against a 17-foot (5-metre) sea wall built to protect the city after a hurricane in 1900 killed at least 8,000 people.

The storm shut down 17 oil refineries, totaling more than a fifth of U.S. production, endangered a freighter at sea, and destroyed a pier in Galveston.

U.S. crude oil futures rose 31 cents to $101.18 a barrel after dropping below $100 for the first time since early April as concerns over U.S. economic weakness outweighed storm disruption fears.

Ike could be the third-most destructive storm in U.S. history behind Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Andrew in 1992, experts said.

Risk Management Solutions pegged the value of insured property in the Houston area at nearly $1 trillion, including the city’s port.

The costliest storm in U.S. history, Katrina, devastated New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast, killing 1,500 people and causing at least $81 billion in damage.

In terms of damage, this can easily exceed Katrina.

It appears citizens were acting more than a bit too casually because this was “only” a category 2 hurricane. The size of the storm and the surge of the waves is the key factor now. A 17 foot stormwall in Galveston will not mean much if waves remain above 20 feet.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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