Texas picks up the pieces left by Hurricane Ike

2019-03-01 01:06:03

By New Scientist staff and Reuters A huge relief effort is underway in storm-struck Texas as the big oil centre of Houston struggles to get back to business after a severe battering by Hurricane Ike. About 2000 people have been rescued from flooded areas in the largest such effort in the state’s history. Searchers are scouring hard-hit places like the island city of Galveston, which was devastated when the hurricane made landfall on Saturday morning before heading inland to Houston. Twelve of the 15 Texas oil refineries that were shut as a precaution show no visible signs of flooding or damage – a sign that fuel production could resume more quickly than initially thought. But power outages may still hinder their start-up. Oil prices have fallen to below $100 a barrel – a six-month low – with early signs that Ike may have spared important Gulf Coast infrastructure. Over 4 million people, several refineries and many businesses and gas stations remain without power; however, floods are receding and crucial aid such as water and food is being delivered to distribution points. “Sixty trucks with supplies rolled in earlier tonight,” says Ed Emmett, chief executive for Harris County, which includes Houston. “As we are standing here, deliveries are being made.” He adds that six relief distribution points are already up and running and he expects 17 to be in operation later today. The relief roll-out appears to have defused tensions that flared between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local officials, as hard-pressed residents complained about the time it was taking to get supplies to those in need. Local officials later attributed the rift to confusion over who was responsible for doing what in the relief chain, a situation that led to delays. The Bush administration came under heavy fire for its botched relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Houston mayor Bill White says all city employees are expected to show up to work today, as the country’s fourth most populous city tries to get up and running again. At NASA’s Johnson Space Center, there was no major flooding but a portion of the Mission Control Center roof was damaged. All systems supporting the International Space Station were functioning normally, the agency said. The city’s two main airports were to resume partial operations on Monday, but with debris still littering its streets and windows blown out of office buildings, as well as power problems, it seemed unlikely the city of more than 2 million people would return to business as usual soon. That point was underscored by the imposition in Houston of a weeklong dusk-to-dawn curfew. Power provider CenterPoint Energy reports it has restored power to 380,000 customers, but over 1.7 million or 76% of its clients remain without electricity as of Sunday night. At least three bodies have been found in Galveston, which sustained some of the worst damage of the storm. The downtown area, containing the few buildings that survived a hurricane in 1900 that killed thousands, is under a layer of foul-smelling mud and sewage. Boats, jet skis and even a catamaran were strewn on the streets. Many residents have travelled in cars, trucks or bicycles or pushed supermarket carts to a National Guard distribution point to pick up water, ice and ready-to-eat meals. “It looks like a war zone. Everything is gone. It’s heartbreaking,” says Susan Rybick, a retiree driving along the seafront with her husband, John. Some lifelong residents said they had not left the city before Ike because they had weathered previous storms and expected to manage on high ground. “I live in an elevated area and I didn’t think it (water) could come through that high,” said Kevin Gonzalez, describing the storm surge that flooded his house early on Saturday. “When I went downstairs, my furniture was floating.” Hurricane Katrina: The Aftermath – The most destructive US natural disaster in living memory. Keep up with the latest in our continually updated special report. Hurricanes – Awesomely destructive, and they may be getting worse. Keep up with the latest in our continually updated special report. More on these topics: