Hurricane Ike

At 7:10 UST on September 13, 2008 (2:10 AM local), Hurricane Ike made landfall at the east end of Galveston Island, Texas as the largest Atlantic tropical cyclone in recorded history.  At the height of the storm, Ike’s cloud mass essentially covered the entire Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Ike caused cataclysmic destruction of the Peninsula - reducing the region to rubble and causing severe, permanent change in the shoreline. Entire communities along the upper Texas coast were simply wiped out by Ike’s catastrophic storm surge. Ike’s effects were disproportionally felt near the long, low-lying Bolivar Peninsula which has typical elevations around 2 m. Despite being only a strong category 2 storm with maximum winds at landfall of 95 knots, Ike’s extremely large, long-lasting surge and waves devastated the peninsula.  In Gilchrist, Texas, NOAA aerial photography reveals complete destruction. The roll-over pass bridge was reduced to one lane. Of the 1,000 buildings in Gilchrist, 99.5% of them were knocked off of their foundations. Of the buildings off of the foundations, the storm demolished some and washed others onto swamplands behind Gilchrist.

The Bolivar Peninsula was just to the right of landfall, placing it on the strong side of the hurricane.  Wind reconstructions show winds blowing strongly from offshore-to-onshore for most of the storm, which acted to increase both surge and waves. Surge is extremely important for the particular case of the Bolivar Peninsula, as it allowed large waves to penetrate inland into areas they could not otherwise have reached. Shoreline erosion was around 75 m, which undermined the piled foundations of oceanfront buildings.  Most other houses in this area were reduced to either piles or slabs by large waves riding on surge, with only a very few remaining more or less intact. Peak coastal surges reached 21-foot (6.4 m). Water depths of at least 5-foot (1.5 m) covered all of the Bolivar Peninsula, with most areas covered by at least 15-foot (4.6 m) of water (not including wave action). Much of the southern part of Chambers County was also inundated by at least 12-foot (3.7 m) of water.

The effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas were crippling and long-lasting. Ike's effects included deaths, widespread damage, and impacts to the price and availability of oil and gas. Hurricane Ike also had a long-term impact on the U.S. economy.  Making landfall over Galveston, at 2:10 a.m. CDT on 13 September 2008, "giant" Hurricane Ike caused extensive damage in Texas, with sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h), a 22 ft (6.8 m) storm surge, and widespread coastal flooding.

More than 140,000 people in the Texas Gulf Coast area in Ike's path had failed to evacuate,[5] partly due to fears of multi-hour traffic jams as during Hurricane Rita, but over 940 were rescued from rising waters, and nearly 2,000 rescued afterward.

As of December 27, 2008, 37 people are known to have lost their lives in Texas due to Ike while hundreds are still missing.

The storm had come ashore hours before daybreak with 110-mph (175 km/h) winds and towering waves, pushing boats ashore, smashing many houses, flooding thousands of homes, knocking out windows in Houston's skyscrapers, uprooting trees, and cutting electric power to more than millions of customers (estimates range from 2.8 million to 4.5 million customers) for weeks or months.

Some people survived by punching holes in attics, climbing to rooftops or trees,[12] using nearby boats, or floating on debris until reaching solid ground.

Afterward, an estimated 100,000 homes had been flooded in Texas, and numerous boats washed ashore. Galveston was declared uninhabitable, and Houston imposed a week-long nighttime curfew due to limited electric power.

Hurricane preparations

Galveston, nearby waterfront towns, and low-lying suburbs of Houston had been partially evacuated.

On September 8, Texas State Governor Rick Perry declared 88 Texas state counties a disaster area in preparation for Hurricane Ike, expected to hit the Texas coast as early as Saturday morning, which included placing 7,500 Texas Military Forces troops on standby.. Galveston, parts of southern Houston and areas south of the city and near the Texas coast were under a mandatory evacuation order starting at noon September 11.

On September 11, forecasting models began to show Ike making landfall just south of the Bolivar Peninsula.  Later that evening, at 8:19 p.m. (CDT), the National Weather Service in Houston/Galveston, TX issued a strongly worded bulletin, regarding storm surge along the shoreline of Galveston Bay, practically those on the Bolivar Peninsula. The bulletin advised residents living in single-family homes in some parts of coastal Texas may face "certain death" if they do not heed orders to evacuate. 

The threat to low-lying areas between Morgan City, Louisiana, and Baffin Bay, Texas, east of the projected eye of Hurricane Ike may experience the greatest damage from storm surges of up to 25 feet. Waves at sea are expected to be higher, up to 70 feet according to computer simulations.

Surge Measurements

As of 13 September 2008, the highest storm surge had been noted between Sabine Pass and the Bolivar Peninsula at 22 ft (6.5 m), the highest surge ever recorded at that station, and Ike also brought on the record for greatest storm surge ever seen with any Category 2 hurricane. However, Bolivar Peninsula, at the entrance to Galveston Bay, was nearer to the eastern side of the eye.

Aftermath

On the night of September 12, 2008, the eye of Hurricane Ike approached the Texas coast near Galveston Bay, making landfall at 2:10 a.m. CDT over the east end of Galveston Island [3] (near Texas City). Rainfall estimates indicated that 2-day rainfall totals from mid-day Friday through mid-day Saturday exceeded 20 inches (50 cm) in parts of both northern Harris County and southern Montgomery County, with a multi-county area receiving at least 10 inches (25 cm) of rainfall.[12]

Bolivar Peninsula, just east across the water from the landfall site on Galveston Island, had been submerged under the storm tide.  Most, if not all of the communities previously located on the Bolivar Peninsula, which together with Galveston Island separates Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico, were utterly devastated.  Based on an extensive aerial survey conducted on the afternoons of Saturday, September 13 and Sunday, September 14, very little remains west of the community of High Island. The area of total or near-total destruction includes Caplen, Port Bolivar, and Crystal Beach. Most, if not all of the structures that had been situated along the length of Highway 87 west of High Island, were destroyed.

Crystal Beach, a populous community located roughly at the midpoint of the peninsula, was submerged and destroyed; waves and wind pounded houses, and even some houses elevated on 14-ft (4.3–m) stilts rolled into the waters.  The tiny beachfront community of Gilchrist, which sat astride the north-facing Rollover Bay on Bolivar, was completely swept away, save for only a few homes. One of these homes, the only one in its neighborhood to remain intact (although it was rendered uninhabitable), attracted widespread media interest after images of it began to appear in newspapers and on television.  At least six bodies were found in an extensive search.

Two flood water sensors in Chambers County, Texas survived Ike's storm surge, while those on eastern Bolivar Peninsula were left inoperable during the hurricane. Along the Eastern shores of Galveston Bay surge heights were measured at 16.9 feet (5.15 m) and a measurement along SH126 measured 17.0 feet (5.18 m).[34][35] Massive amounts of surge carried debris, largely from Bolivar Peninsula and southern Chambers County were left along the northern coast of Rollover bay Chambers county.

 



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