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While Hurricane Ike—the worst storm to hit the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005—did not cause as much damage as many feared, it still left its mark on Texas and other states.
Ike made contact Sept. 13, bringing with it torrential rain, winds exceeding 100 mph and wave surges nearing 13 feet. Though it lowered in intensity as it hit land and was eventually downgraded to a tropical storm, the effects were felt as far north as Chicago. In total, Ike was responsible for the deaths of nearly 34 people across nine different states heavily affecting power infrastructure, roads and the economy.
Galveston, Texas, is believed to have received the worst damage. Many homes were destroyed, leaving little more than the stilts or the foundations they were built upon, as waters from the gulf flooded the coastal city. Other homes burned as rescue workers waited out the storm, unable to respond to emergency calls from residents who did not evacuate.
Five people were found dead and more than 1,500 safe during house-to-house searches. With billions of dollars in damages expected, Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas said to residents anxious to return to their homes, “Do not come back to Galveston. You cannot live here at this time” (AP).
Despite a few delays, Houston was able to offer aid to citizens left without electricity. More than ten distribution centers opened offering fresh water, food and ice to residents. Municipal employees were expected to show up for work after the storm’s passing, as road and tree crews cleared debris and worked to bring the city back up to speed.
After making landfall along the gulf coast, remnants of Hurricane Ike combined with another weather system moving eastward, causing violent weather across the country. Chicago weathered storms that left 1.5 million homes without power. Hurricane-force winds in Ohio shut down Cincinnati airport, and tornadoes in Arkansas damaged buildings in the capital, causing a fire that enveloped over 50 mobile homes outside Little Rock.
After a tornado had passed, one Arkansas resident said, “It’s scary, it’s like a war zone” (CNN).
U.S. consumers and businesses felt the economic impact of the hurricane over the weekend. Insurance companies believe the damage will reach close to $18 billion in losses.
Despite the apparent lack of damage to most of the refineries along the Gulf Coast, gas prices jumped up closed 40 cents as more than 20% of U.S. fuel production shut down in anticipation of the approaching storm.
Authorities in Texas had initially predicted 20-foot storm surges to hit Galveston and the Houston Ship Channel. However, in spite of the “very heavy damage” done to the Texan power grid, Texas Governor Rick Perry stated, “Fortunately the worst case scenario that was spoken about…did not occur” (Reuters).