Gustav and Hanna were just warm-ups though. Ike is utterly amazing. It's only a category 2 storm right now, but the category ratings measure only wind speed. Ike is one of the largest hurricanes ever recorded. "[T]he diameter of Ike's tropical storm and hurricane force winds are 550 and 240 miles, respectively. For comparison, Katrina numbers at landfall were 440 and 210 miles, respectively." Because Ike is so massive it has 30% more total energy than Katrina did. The eye of Ike is aimed just west of Galveston. Because hurricanes spin counter-clockwise, the energy of any hurricane is concentrated on its eastern side. The storm picks up water at sea and throws it on land on its eastern side. That and the massive total energy of Ike is why the storm surge on Ike's eastern side is expected to be between 20 and 25 feet high when it strikes Galveston.
People are talking of Ike as being comparable to the deadliest natural disaster ever to hit the United States, the Galveston hurricane of September 8, 1900. The storm surge that hit Galveston in 1900 was estimated at over 15 ft (4.6 m.) The1900 Galveston storm continued across the U.S. and still had 90 mile per hour winds when it struck New York City.
At the time of the 1900 hurricane, "the highest point in the city of Galveston was only 8.7 ft (2.7 m) above sea level." Because of that hurricane, the city of Galveston dredged up sand and "...raise[d] the city of Galveston by as much as 17 ft (5.2 m)...." This is in addition to building a 17 foot high seawall along the side of the island of Galveston that faces the Gulf of Mexico. Still, a 17 foot high seawall faces a storm surge currently estimated to be 20 to 25 feet. The highest part of the city was raised to only 25.7 feet. Recent reports indicate that almost all the population of Galveston has been evacuated, so whatever happens will not cause a casualty list of between 4,000 and 12,000 as is estimated for the 1900 hurricane. There will be a casualty list, but this time there will probably be as many killed in the evacuation as by the storm itself. (The quotations above in this paragraph are from Wikipedia's entry on the 1900 Galveston Hurrican.)
I think Ike is God's retribution on the Republicans. That's why he gave the Democrats beautiful weather and then lined up three hurricanes in the Atlantic for the Republican Convention. At least that's the conclusion I get when I apply Rev. Hagee logic to the hurricanes.
So why are so many non-Republicans going to be injured and killed by the three hurricanes?
What can I say? Like civilians killed by America missile strikes aimed at Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the rest of us are just collateral damage.
Addendum 7:09 pm CDT
Here is a prediction from the Houston Chronicle.
The scariest line in the Houston Chronicle article is "If you live east of San Luis Pass and less than 20 feet above sea level, God help you at this point if you have not evacuated."
San Luis Pass is the opening to Galveston Bay at the east end of Galveston Island. East of San Luis Pass is a low sandy island or peninsula that runs for a number of miles to the east. It is unlikely that any part of that island is above 20 feet above sea level. It is resort beach with a few thousand permanent residents.
Addendum II 2:26 pm CDT
The Houston Chronicles SciGuy reports on what happened as a result of Ike.
Did Southeast Texas escape the worst?It looks like the worst possible results failed to occur. Ike still reminds me of 1961's Carla, though.
For a lot of residents it sure won't feel like it today, or in the coming weeks or months. But here's a preliminary assessment from University of Texas engineer Gordon Wells. I consider the information to be credible.
Galveston Island: Storm surge peaked at 12.4 feet at 02:12 CDT. That measurement places 6-7 feet of water in the bayside area of the city, including UTMB and The Strand.
Galveston Bay communities: All sensors failed during the rising stage of the surge, so no direct measurements are available. Based on the Galveston gage record, storm surge elevations in the communities along the bay and in the Houston Ship Channel should peak in the range of 12-14 feet.
Port Arthur: The gage at Sabine Pass peaked at 14.24 feet at 02:42 CDT. The Port Arthur gauge, which reports hourly, stood at 11.92 feet at 04:00 CDT and was still rising very gradually. It appears that the storm surge along the Port Arthur seawall will peak between 12 and 13 feet, or 1.5-2.0 feet below the threshold for overtopping. Unless the levee fails before water recedes, Port Arthur will survive Ike.
Comment: Damage from inundation caused by storm surge will be widespread across the region, but should not reach the catastrophic level that would have occurred, if several model predictions materialized. Heavy rains continue across the Houston metropolitan region, and bayou flooding may replace the storm surge threat, but if Ike exits the region on schedule, Southeast Texas will have escaped the worst.
All of this doesn't speak to the potential devastation in Galveston, especially for areas beyond the seawall on the island's west end. That's a story that will continue to unfold for days and weeks.Posted by Eric Berger at 08:18 AM in Hurricanes, Ike "
I'm still waiting to hear what happened to the areas east of the channel to Galveston Bay, San Luis Pass. I doubt that the ferry across the channel from Galveston to the Bolivar Peninsula is running yet, and driving in from Beaumont/Port Arthur probably won't be possible for days because of road damage - or disappearance.