Hurricane Ike Targets Sailing City

To arrive Galveston this morning - Hurricane Ike (NASA image)
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Hurricane Ike is expected to hit the sailing and yachting centre of Galveston in the USA, Saturday morning, and forecast to be the worst since the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 that cost than 6,000 lives. Galveston Island and Galveston Bay, just a short drive from the centre of Houston, are the home of no less than 60 marinas and hundreds of boat yards.

Yesterday large waves were crashing onto the beaches of Galveston Island under a darkening sky. Local officials were urging anyone who has not already left the coastal areas to get out now. Hundreds of thousands of people took that advice Thursday and vehicles moved slowly, but steadily up highways leading up from the coast through Houston and to destinations farther inland.

As officials conferred with meteorologists tracking Hurricane Ike early Friday they looked for signs that the eye of the massive storm might be moving up the coast away from Houston, as Hurricane Rita did in September, 2005. But Houston Mayor Bill White says this storm is coming right at the city.

Hurricane Ike Friday from NOAA
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'This particular hurricane took a turn towards the north, towards us, with fairly short notice, but now all the scientific models converge; the storm is coming here,' White said.

Federal officials are estimating $3 billion in damage to the area as the storm moves inland in the coming hours. The first danger is from the storm surge, which could be higher than 6 meters in some coastal areas. Experts say nine out of ten people killed by hurricanes are victims of the surge and flooding caused by the surge.

The next danger comes from high winds. Heavy rains also pose a threat because the Gulf of Mexico waters will be so high that normal drainage will be curtailed.

New Orleans has yet to fully recover from Katrina and has just over half the population it had before the hurricane. Images of Katrina's devastation are still fresh in the minds of people here in Houston and all along the Gulf coast as another monster storm approaches land.