Forecasters issued a hurricane warning Thursday
morning for a roughly 500-mile stretch between the Louisiana state line and
Corpus Christi, Texas.
Residents of Galveston, including University of
Texas Medical Branch patients, followed mandatory evacuation orders as did
those in several coastal counties and low-lying areas near Houston. Galveston,
which sits on a narrow barrier island between the Gulf and Galveston Bay, was
virtually destroyed by a 1900 hurricane that killed more than 6,000 people.
"We must have passed 50 or more people taking
their boats and probably every mobile home in the state was on the road,"
Margaret Romero, 67, who left Corpus Christi Wednesday, told Reuters. "Our
entire street -- every house on our street was boarded up."
Houston Mayor Bill White urged employers to give
their employees Friday off unless their presence was essential, the
Houston Chronicle reported. He also called on all school districts to suspend
White also urged residents to clear their
yards and patios of furniture, grills and other items that could become
projectiles in hurricane-force winds.
State aircraft began making a visual sweep of the
coastline to see where more efforts could be made to remove residents from the
Harris County's chief executive, Judge Ed Emmett,
said a decision would be made after the Thursday rush hour on whether to
shift the area's highways to exclusively outbound traffic.
On Thursday morning, Ike was 470 miles
east-southeast of Galveston, moving at 10 mph on a west-northwesterly
track, the National Weather Service reported. Maximum sustained winds were near
100 mph, with higher gusts.
The Category 2 storm could grow to a ferocious
Category 4 storm with winds of 132 mph before barreling ashore, the National
Hurricane Center said.
If the storm continues to move east and north, the
Houston-Galveston area would be on what is considered the rougher, "dirty
side" of a Category 4 hurricane, bringing with it storm surges of up to 20
feet in some areas, the Chronicle reported.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that some people would
likely resist evacuation calls, but said he wants to see "buses, not body
bags." He put 1,350 buses on standby to carry evacuees.
As they have done at least four times this hurricane
season, energy companies shuttered more than 11 percent of U.S. fuel production
capacity at refineries along the Gulf Coast in preparation for another storm.
The refinery shutdowns sparked widespread concern about possible fuel shortages
in the storm's wake, driving a rally in Gulf Coast wholesale gasoline prices
toward $5 a gallon that could trickle down to the pumps, traders said.
"We're talking about a major storm surge in the
Galveston area which could cause some flooding and damage to refineries and the
Gulf Coast is reacting to that in a very strong way," Tom Bentz, an
analyst at BNP Paribas Commodity Futures Inc., told Reuters.
Bingo Cosby, owner of a surf shop in Surfside Beach,
said Wednesday that he planned to ride out Ike. "I'm going to go upstairs
above my shop with my two guns and protect my property," he said.
"Besides, the storm isn't coming here," he
confidently told the Chronicle. "I went out on the jetty last night and
prayed that it would just turn around."