Weather Nerd

Ike nears coast; storm surge catastrophe likely

The National Hurricane Center’s 5:00 PM EDT public advisory and discussion are out. The headline on the advisory is: “IKE’S FURY AIMED AT THE UPPER TEXAS AND SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA COAST.” The forecast track continues to aim the storm just to the left of Galveston Bay, with landfall around 2:00 AM EDT.

If that track verifies — and there’s precious little time remaining for a rightward course shift — the massive storm surge, more typical of a Category 4 than a Category 2, will devastate Galveston Island, killing many of the people who have foolishly chosen to stay. The surge will cause major damage to both residential and industrial areas in low-lying portions of the Houston metro area, and well up the coast to Port Arthur and beyond. All told, this freak storm could be one of the worst hurricanes in American history.

In Eric Berger’s live chat, the Houston Chronicle hurricane reporter was asked, “How long will Galveston be closed?” He responded: “If the storm comes in west of Galveston Bay, for a long, long time. I do not believe the island will be the same as we have known it unless the storm comes in over Bolivar Peninsula or further east.”

Meanwhile, Alan Sullivan (who has a new post up, BTW) wrote in comments on his blog: “It’s the industry of Houston that I’m worried about. Not only could we be looking at the most expensive hurricane in history, but the destruction of energy infrastructure could put the nation in real difficulty. We have refused to build infrastructure for many years; now we may lose some of what we have.” This from a guy who’s been saying that Ike is “overhyped.” If Sullivan is right, today’s gas panics may be just the beginning.

I’m about to head home from work, and will be away from my computer for a few hours. I will try to keep approving comments as they come in, but I may fall a bit behind. I’ll be back later this evening, and will stay up until landfall, liveblogging the storm. In the mean time, follow the numerous links at right for the latest on Ike.

And say a prayer for the people in Ike’s path. The ocean is coming.