Hurricane Ike is just about to make landfall, and looks like it will just about bulls-eye Galveston, Texas. This is, of course, nearing the worst-case scenario; Galveston, like New Orleans, is extremely low-lying, and if Ike overtops or breaches the sea wall protecting Galveston, the damage could be catastrophic. This wouldn’t be a problem if Galveston had evacuated, but almost half the city chose to ride it out, with predictable results:
As Hurricane Ike pushed a swelling surge onto Galveston Island tonight, many Galveston residents who ignored a mandatory evacuation order phoned for rescues to no avail because emergency workers were called off the streets, officials said.
Help wasn’t expected until after dangerous storm conditions subsided.
“We don’t know what we’re going to find tomorrow,” said the city’s mayor, Lyda Ann Thomas. “We hope we’ll find that the people who didn’t leave here are alive and well.”
City Manager Steve LeBlanc went so far as to ask the media not to photograph “certain things” in the aftermath, referring to the possibility of dead bodies.
Power was out all across the island, much of which already had flooded. Two house fires are burning, as did a boat warehouse that was widely photographed earlier today.
Power lines are down, he said, and it may be weeks before it can be restored. Assessment teams will get out Saturday morning after the storm. Fifty people were rescued from high water and about 260 are in a shelter at Ball High School.
LeBlanc said he didn’t know how long it would take before evacuated residents could return. The city may briefly allow them back in to check on their homes, but will then ask them to leave again until the city is safe.
“We feel the city of Galveston will have suffered from this storm,” she said.
Eric Berger, who mans the Houston Chronicle’s SciGuy Blog, was not optimistic:
I noted on Wednesday night that I couldn’t believe that the Galveston mayor hadn’t yet called for an evacuation, and she finally did Thursday morning. Still, I feel that emergency planners weren’t sufficiently firm in their warnings, leaving that job to the National Weather Service.
Sensing the danger, the weather service was left to writing messages such as, “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.”
Unfortunately this may now come to pass on an island where more than 20,000 people remain to ride out a monster hurricane.
Meanwhile, tiny Surfside Beach has already been completely swamped, and the damage looks like it will only grow worse.
I am not by nature a praying man, but I also am of the firm belief that no matter what lies beyond this mortal realm, whether it be incomprehensibly vast or simply nonexistent, no good thought is wasted. And so if you are one who is so inclined, please pray for those who are facing catastrophe tonight; if you do not wish to pray, at the very least hold them in your heart. Perhaps the flood wall in Galveston will hold, and the level of destruction will not be as great as it could have been. Perhaps not. But these are our fellow humans, and it is our duty to remember them tonight.