America’s Lone Star state Texas is holding its breath, as Hurricane Ike smashes into the coast. The initial winds and waves arrived earlier, with Ike just one kph short of being a Catagory Three hurricane. Emergency restrictions are in force along the Gulf coast, after the US Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said Ike posed a “worst-case scenario.” Winds of more than 175 kph have been recorded around the storm’s eye.
“The size, strength, and current path of the storm have the potential to produce catastrophic – let me repeat that, catastrophic – effects, and to threaten the life and safety of citizens along the Texas coast and the Western part of Louisiana,” said Chertoff.
Ike is so massive that some 13 million people are directly threatened; federal officials estimate the bill for damage caused may go into the billions. A mandatory evacuation order is in force, with highways leading away from the target area jammed nose-to-tail. But reports from the coast say some people are refusing to leave, and are prepared to take their chances. Galveston has ordered a three-day overnight curfew with a predicted six-metre storm surge likely to swamp the beaches.
The weakened US economy looks like being an early victim of Ike’s power. The northwest Gulf produces around a quarter of US oil and 15 percent of its gas. Ike’s trajectory has spared many of the platforms, but the coastal refineries are under threat and fuel prices are already rising with production shut down.