It seems that the various agencies and authorities have been doing their best to prevent loss of life and health in Ike's path, but the hurricane will still take an enormous toll, in lives and property.
Part of this is due to the "weirdness" of this storm; it hasn't followed the patterns of previous hurricanes. Even though it is still only a Category 2 hurricane, it may be as deadly as a Cat. 4, partly because it is spread so widely, 600 miles across, that it throws up a much higher surge than a "normal", tight hurricane. The surge is expected to reach up to 20 feet at Galveston, where the eye will be hitting tonight.
Galveston (pop. 60,000), like all of Texas in that area, is low-lying and flat. It lies on an island or spit that is more like a large sand-bar. It is protected by a seawall 1/3 the length of the city's shore, and 17 feet high.
20 feet of surge vs. 17 feet of seawall. There's a problem here.
The other half of this looming disaster may be owing to that rating, too. Cat. 2. The residents of the area have lived through hurricanes before. Many times. That's Texas. And a Cat. 2 is no big deal. It blows and rains, and blows away. So many of the residents, admonished to flee, stayed home, boarded up their windows, and prepared to wait it out. 40% of them are still on the island.
The water is starting to rise already. A fire at the marina blazed unfought, because the road to it was under 8 feet of water. Emergency rescues are underway, too late. The tide is coming in.
The sandspit(s) provide a low breakwater for Galveston Bay, which reaches back towards Houston, ending about 20 miles from city center. The storm surge should reach there with the dawn. (I lived at the end of the bay, in Baytown, for about 6 months, long ago. My first son was born there. I remember it well; the flat, featureless land, the heat and bugs, the desperate poverty in the shadow of a great, rich city.)
From the Galveston County Daily News;
The storm also could force water up the seven bayous that thread through Houston, swamping neighborhoods so flood-prone that they get inundated during ordinary rainstorms.Firefighters, medical personnel, search-and-rescue crews, sandbaggers, etc., are working around the clock. From "outside", government agencies and individual people are rallying to their aid, sending food, equipment and helpers, taking in escapees. And here in BC, I can only wait and read, and read some more. And hope for the best. I think a donation to the Red Cross may be in order, too.
This summer, wandering Strathcona's alleys, we came across these shoes, somebody's cast-offs.
The uppers were cracked and worn, but the soles were intact. The previous owner had carefully polished them, added new, neatly tied laces, and placed them side by side, atop a low curb, for the use of someone a little less fortunate than he.
And the sun will be shining here tomorrow, the skies will be blue. We'll probably go birding in a peaceful park. But I'll be remembering the families struggling through waist-deep water in Galveston.