Ike Could Reach Category 4; Houston-Galveston on Path

Forecasters expect Hurricane Ike to make landfall this weekend somewhere between Corpus Christi and Houston, creating the potential for heavy punishment for Houston even if it's not hit directly.

Some forecasts say Ike could strengthen to a fearsome Category 4 hurricane with winds of at least 131 mph over the Gulf of Mexico, and emergency officials warned it could drive a storm surge as high as 18 feet.

If current projections of the storm's path hold up, the area surrounding Houston--home to about 4 million people--would be lashed by the eastern or "dirty" side of the storm, said meteorologist Jeff Masters, co-founder of San Francisco-based Weather Underground. This stronger side of the storm often packs heavy rains, walloping storm surge and tornadoes.

Hurricane Ike 3-day forecast path

Hurricane Ike's 3-day forecast path, as of 7 a.m. CDT Sept. 11.

"I expect a lot of damage in Houston from this storm," said Masters, adding that Ike could cause a "huge storm surge" affecting at least 100 miles of the Texas coast.

Houston officials were expecting some flooding, the question is how much.

Patrick Trahan, spokesman for the city of Houston, told The Associated Press early Thursday that "based on the current forecast (we) would expect to see some flooding based solely on the surge in some low-lying areas."

The Galveston-Houston area could be on the edge of hurricane-force wind gusts, even if the storm makes land 100 miles to the southwest as some forecasts say is likely, said forecaster Joe Bartosik. Storm surges in the Houston-Galveston area could reach 10 to 14 feet in a Category 3 storm, and as much as 20 feet for a Category 4, said Bartosik, senior meteorologist with WeatherBug, a private weather company with 1,500 weather stations along the Gulf Coast.

At 5 a.m. EDT, Ike was a Category 2 storm with winds near 100 mph. It was about 620 miles east of Brownsville, Texas, and was moving west-northwest near 9 mph.

For information on preparing for a hurricane, see:

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The Associated Press


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