Storm Damage Is Extensive and Millions Lose Power
The New York Times,
With wind gusts approaching 100 miles per hour, the 600-mile-wide Category 2 hurricane peeled sheets of steel off skyscrapers here, smashed bus shelters and blew out windows, sending shattered glass and debris across the nation's fourth-largest city, with a population of 2.2 million.
The storm came ashore on
Yet officials expressed relief that the damage was not as catastrophic as federal and state officials had warned it would be.
"Fortunately the worst-case scenario did not occur," Gov. Rick Perry of
There were reports of as many as four people killed, but it could take days to search flooded homes to assess the full impact of the storm, officials said.
The authorities said the hurricane could still prove to be the most punishing storm to hit the area since Hurricane Alicia did 25 years ago.
Almost the entire metropolitan area lost power, and authorities said more than three million people were trying to manage in the dark. Utility officials say it could be weeks before power is restored throughout the region.
The magnitude of the power loss and the flooding raised the possibility that several major oil refineries would take more than a week to reopen. As a result, gasoline prices will probably spike around the country, even if oil prices continue to ease on international markets. Overnight, prices rose an average of 5 cents a gallon, to $3.73 for regular gasoline, according to AAA.
Officials at refining companies said early damage reports were encouraging because the center of the storm missed the refineries. The surge of water into
The expectations at nightfall Friday that a virtual tsunami of 20-foot waves would crash directly into
Whatever the height of the surge, longtime residents of
More than two million people evacuated coastal areas of
At least 100,000 homes were inundated by surging waters, while isolated fires broke out around the region when trees and flying objects fell on electrical transformers, causing sparks.
Its going to be weeks before we get power to the last customers, said Mike Rodgers, a spokesman for Entergy
President Bush issued a major disaster declaration for 29 counties in
Obviously, this is a huge storm that is causing a lot of damage not only in
Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, canceled an appearance on Saturday Night Live, aides said, because he felt it would be inappropriate.
Civic leaders asked residents to conserve water and call 911 only in life-or-death situations.
We dont know what were going to find, said Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas of
Despite the devastating flooding in
Benton McGee, a hydrologist with the United States Geological Survey, told The Associated Press that the surge at
But Stacey Stewart, a senior hurricane analyst at the
I wouldnt go out and say that surge values werent as high as predicted, he said. We have received reports of 15 feet and the sea wall being topped.
Mr. Stewart said a shift in the storms track to the north just before landfall might have kept the rise in sea levels on the lower side of what had been forecast.
The storm moved through the region more quickly than some previous hurricanes and tropical storms, limiting flooding. By early afternoon, the
Mike Varela, chief of the Galveston Fire Department, said flooding was 8- to 10-feet deep in some areas of the city. The low-lying neighborhoods are extremely flooded right now, Chief Varela said.
Twenty-two men aboard a crippled freighter, which was adrift off the coast of
Initial reports from residential neighborhoods around
Late in the afternoon, Air Force helicopters began plucking people out of flooded homes in
Joyce Williams, 58, arrived on the first chopper with her 80-year-old mother, Eunice Haley, who had spent the night in a house with four feet of water on the ground floor. Ms. Williams was trying to get her mother out of the swamped house when she saw the helicopter and waved.
Steven Rushing, who had tried to ride out the storm at his
I know my house was dry at , and at , we were floating on the couch putting lifejackets on, he said. Once the water reached the television, four feet off the floor, Mr. Rushing said, he retrieved his boat from the garage and loaded his family into it.
I didnt keep my boat there to plan on evacuating because I didnt plan on the water getting that high, but I sure am glad it was there, he said.