Ike’s Storm Surge Will be Catastrophic For Many

If this statement from the National Weather Service Office in Galveston, Texas does not get people’s attention, nothing will:

Life threatening inundation likely!

All neighborhoods… and possibly entire coastal communities…
will be inundated during the period of peak storm tide. Persons
not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story
homes will face certain death. Many residences of average
construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread
and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere.
Vehicles left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads
will be swamped… some may be washed away by the water. Entire
flood prone coastal communities will be cutoff. Water levels may
exceed 9 feet for more than a mile inland. Coastal residents in
multi-story facilities risk being cutoff. Conditions will be
worsened by battering waves. Such waves will exacerbate property
damage… with massive destruction of homes… including those of
block construction. Damage from beach erosion could take years to

Anyone naïve enough to think that Ike is nothing to fear, needs to read the above advisory a few times. The same type of advisory was written by the NWS in New Orleans just before Katrina hit. All came to pass as stated.

Let me state this in no uncertain terms. Ike may or may not turn into a category 4 storm but the storm surge will be as great as Katrina’s was. When looking at sheer size of Ike, it is no wonder that the storm surge is the greatest concern right now. Ike is currently bigger than Katrina ever was and its hurricane and tropical force winds extend further than Katrina’s did when it was a category 5 storm. Storm surge readings today on the Mississippi coast were nearly 5 feet. This is from a storm 250 miles out to sea.

Galveston has been under mandatory evacuation orders since noon. Many areas of Houston need to be. Carla sent a storm surge all the way into Houston in 1961 of nearly 15 feet into Houston. Carla hit 120 miles from the city. Biloxi, Mississippi reported a storm surge of 20 feet and was close to 75 miles from Katrina’s landfall. With reported waves of 50 feet or more in the Gulf, it is no wonder that the overwhelming concern at the moment is the storm surge.

Yes, Ike may yet veer off to the east and spare Galveston and Houston from its worst wrath. Yes, Ike may not intensify into the category 3 or 4 storm feared. Yes, Ike may not be the storm of the century. But, Ike is going to greatly impact someone in or near the Galveston/Houston area. Ike is going to produce storm surge problems for hundreds of miles of the Texas and Louisiana coastline.

Ike has been a difficult storm to forecast and figure out since its inception. Ike has rarely done as he was supposed to do and has baffled forecasters of all degrees of skill time and again. Not even two days ago, everyone was so sure Ike was heading to Brownsville or even Mexico. As we get ever closer to landfall, Ike is slowly but surely inching further and further up the coast and down the coast. Ike is like a lot of guys I have known in life who simply are not going to do as they are told to do.

Part of what should be of utmost concern to people is the inability to accurately get a fix on Ike’s track and intensity. Part of what should deeply concern people is the size of this storm. Other than not having a well defined eye (yet), Ike looks awesome on satellite photos. The amount of space occupied by Ike in the Gulf of Mexico is quite amazing. Perhaps, as I read today, somebody fed steroids to Ike to pump him up. I don’t know about that, but one thing is certain, and that is that Ike is going to set records in some categories and perhaps many.

I was stationed in Mississippi as a minister between 1978 and 1980. I made many trips to the coast during that time, and Biloxi was one of my favorite places to go in the whole state. I spent many an hour sitting on the beach enjoying the warm winds and quietness. I never traveled that road or saw those beaches again until 2006 about 7 months after Katrina hit. I will never forget the utter shock I felt at the power of a 25 foot storm surge.

Everything was gone. The surge took the buildings and threw them who knows where. All that was left was the foundations to the buildings. The storm surge was like a vacuum cleaner lifting all in its path and leaving nothing behind. The storm surge took out two huge bridges and turned communities into ghost towns for nearly two years.

I shudder to think what a 25 foot storm surge would do to Galveston or a 20 foot surge to Houston. When I think back to what I saw along the Mississippi coast; I stay motivated to keep writing these posts for whoever might be reading them. It is impossible to survive a storm surge unless safely in a high rise building. I pity those who have chosen suicide by ignoring the orders to leave Galveston. I pray those with ears to hear have heard the warnings and taken all appropriate action.

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