** It's Too Late To Escape Hurricane Ike... You Must Stay Put **

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Fri, 09/12/2008 - 10:01pm.

As Galveston's west end was deluged Friday, Houston officials warned residents to stay put because it was no longer safe to try to escape Hurricane Ike which has gotten stronger. ~ VIDEOS

Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc warned that the worst was still to come.

"The island is flooding pretty severely right now," he said. "The west end is being torn up, pretty severely."

A KTRK-TV on-air reporter in Galveston said the power went out around 8:45 pm ET.

The Category 2 storm had 110 mph winds as of 7 p.m. ET, speed that has been steadily increasing with each advisory from the National Hurricane Center. It is expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday near Galveston, and by that time may have strengthened to a Category 3, forecasters say. Video Watch floodwaters surge into Galveston »

Authorities in Galveston imposed a curfew to last until dawn Monday. The town of La Porte also instituted a curfew through 5 a.m. Saturday, the Houston Chronicle reported. iReport.com: Galveston Island seawall slammed

Houston's Harris County is under a curfew that begins at 7 p.m. ET to 6 a.m. Sunday.

Ike is 900 miles wide, measuring the cloud cover at its widest point. On Friday, its tropical storm-force winds extended up to 275 miles -- the length of the Texas coastline -- from its center, for a total reach of about 550 miles. Track the storm »

Galveston had ordered evacuation of the island, but LeBlanc said about 40 percent of the city's 57,523 residents chose to stay. "It's unfortunate that the warnings that we sent out were not heeded," he said. Video Watch: Residents have second thoughts, decide to evacuate »

LeBlanc said that by 9 p.m. all city personnel would be hunkered down and would not be able to respond to calls until after the storm passed.

Only a few more than 150 people were in a shelter of last resort, he said. Video Watch Gen. Russel Honore detail the challenges of a large evacuation »

"My message now at this hour, if someone has not left the island by now, they need to go get inside and stay there until some time tomorrow morning when the hurricane has gone by," Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas said Friday afternoon.

A fire broke out at a Galveston yacht basin, where boats are stored and fixed, said Galveston Fire Chief Michael Varela Sr., and firefighters were unable to reach it because the area was flooded with about 8 feet of water.

If the fire spreads, Varela said, firefighters may be able to contain portions of it. But he said he was more concerned that new fires might break out elsewhere in the city, where many spots are impassable.

About 200,000 residents have fled low-lying areas of metro Houston, which has 4 million residents.

Earlier Friday, authorities rescued more than 120 people stranded by rising seas along the southeast Texas coast. But 22 people aboard a 584-foot Cyprus-flagged freighter were unable to be rescued by helicopter because winds were too strong, the U.S. Coast Guard said. At 6 p.m. ET, Coast Guard officials said the freighter, which had stalled in the water when it lost power, had regained electricity. Video Watch: Daring rescue saves motorist from flood waters »

The military has 42 search-and-rescue helicopters on standby, one official said.

More than half of the community of Surfside Beach was inundated by 8 a.m. Friday, and rescuers drove a dumptruck through the streets in a final bid to get people out before the storm hits, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Roughly 3.5 million people live in the storm's impact zone, according to federal estimates. iReport.com: Are you in Ike's path? Share your story

The weather service painted a vivid picture in its warning of the destruction it expects: a towering wall of water crashing over the Galveston Bay shoreline as the brunt of Ike comes ashore. That wall of water could send floodwaters surging into Houston, more than 20 miles inland. Video Watch CNN meteorologists track Hurricane Ike »

"All neighborhoods ... and possibly entire coastal communities ... will be inundated during the peak storm tide," the weather service warned. "Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single-family one- or two-story homes will face certain death." Video Watch President Bush urge residents to evacuate »

The storm's counterclockwise rotation is likely to push water into Galveston Bay for hour upon hour, battering sea walls and structures.

The final storm surge, the one that could exceed 20 feet in height, would come as the hurricane's eye crosses the shoreline. See flood projections from the governor's office »

Galveston spokeswoman Mary Jo Naschke estimated Friday morning that just more than half of the city's 58,000 people had been evacuated.

Others chose to stay, at least initially.

"I've decided not to evacuate," said iReporter Matteu Erchull on Galveston Island. "We have a lot of faith in the seawall, and we have boards on the windows. Most people on the island live on second or third stories, so they don't have to worry about the water so much."

However, Erchull started having second thoughts as the sea surged in.

"There's a lot of concern, actually, because we were getting all gung-ho about staying here, and just now I've taken all my electronics and [I'm] putting them on top of the refrigerator," he said.

"There's water on my door. It's like you're all ready for it until you start to see it yourself.

"The window of opportunity for us to leave is still available, and I wouldn't be surprised if I heed that warning in the next hour." iReport.com: See Erchull bracing for Ike

Paul King of Galveston said hurricanes are part of life on the Texas coast, according to CNN affiliate KSAT-TV.

"You enjoy it 360 days of the year," he said of his Galveston Island property. "And the other five, you have to get out of town." Video Watch how one family plans to avoid Ike »

A slight northward change in Ike's path could spare much of the Houston area and its millions of residents from catastrophic flooding by keeping the surge out of the bay and pushing it to less populated areas.

September 12, 2008 - source CNN

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Fri, 09/12/2008 - 10:01pm.