Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike Smashes Texas Coast; One Million Flee (Update1)


Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Ike smashed into the coast of Texas as a category 2 storm with wind speeds of almost 110 miles per hour (175 kph), forcing more than a million residents around Houston to flee their homes ahead of its arrival.

Ike's path made it the first storm to hit a major U.S. metropolitan area since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. Ike, which made landfall in Galveston at 2:10 a.m. local time, has the potential to cost insurers $25 billion, ranking it behind Katrina as the second-most expensive storm in U.S. history, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu estimated.

About 1.2 million people have evacuated the area surrounding Houston, the fourth-biggest U.S. city, Texas Governor Rick Perry told CNN. A dawn-to-dusk curfew will be enforced in areas under mandatory evacuation orders to deter looting, Houston Mayor Bill White said at a press conference yesterday.

Ike ``has the potential to produce a catastrophic effect,'' said Michael Chertoff, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, on a conference call. It's not time ``to play chicken with the storm.''

The system was moving toward the northeast at nearly 10 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. Ike is moving in a north to northwestward path with a turn toward the north likely later today, the center said.

The storm is rated a ``strong category 2'' on the Saffir- Simpson scale, the center said. Ike is following a track similar to the 1900 Galveston hurricane that killed 8,000, the deadliest storm in U.S. history.

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