Hurricane Ike is gunning toward Galveston, TX, following a very familiar path. Three years ago, barely three weeks after Katrina, hurricane Rita swept through east Texas and western Louisiana, coming ashore in Cameron parish. The attempted evacuation from Rita was an unmitigated disaster. Many of the folks down in Texas and Louisiana (my folks included) fought their way north through massive traffic jams into central east Texas, an area known for its reservoirs. Unfortunately, Rita followed them up there. People were stranded for days with no power, no gasoline, and had to cut themselves free from the hundreds of fallen pines that blocked the tiny rural roads. My family managed to get out after 8 days by siphoning gas from two cars and a boat.
Needless to say, they don’t want to relive that experience. Many, many people are planning to wait this one out. Governor Perry is rattling sabers trying to convince the populace to get out of Galveston (a good idea). Much of Galveston and lower Houston is evacuating. Deeper east Texas folks are shrugging off the storm as a “cat two”. Regardless of category two or three, that’s not really what I’m concerned about.
With a storm this big, you have to start thinking about energy. And you have to think about the kind of energy that the storm can use to push the water in the Gulf. With this much surface coverage (it’s 275 miles across), this storm could easily push a storm surge of twenty feet. The seawall in Galveston is seventeen feet high. Not good. Port Arthur and Bridge City will be on the east side of the monster, which is where the worst of the wind and rain will be. I don’t remember how high the sea wall is in Port Arthur, but I think it’s shorter than Galveston’s. Bridge City has no sea wall. It has a two miles of marsh. These models aren’t encouraging.
My family evacuated for Hanna a few weeks ago which missed them at the last moment. This time they are determined to stay put, and make due with their generator. I worry about all that energy pushing all that water. But, for now, I suppose we just wait and see. It’s like playing chicken with a steam roller.