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Storm Surge Major Threat As Ike Barrels In


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


We're joined now by Mark Fox, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas. And Mark, how do you describe this storm? How bad is it going to be?

MARK FOX: And the reason why we're seeing such large storm surge is just because it's a very large storm, about 700 miles in diameter. The strongest winds aren't nearly that wide, but a very large storm is allowing for that water to just pile up. And we're already starting to see the 15- foot waves going on to Galveston and the southeast Texas coast already. And the eye of the storm is still about 100 miles out.

BLOCK: Now, how does that work? If the winds aren't as strong, but the storm is big, the storm surge can be just as powerful?

FOX: Exactly. The - especially, to describe it is if you're in a swimming pool and you take just your palm and your hand and move some water, you're going to be able to move it fairly quick. But if you put out your entire arm and then sweep out some water, well, you're going to have quite a bit more wave action at a longer period. And if you do that for the entire length of a Olympic swimming pool, by the end the pool you're going to have a very large wave.

BLOCK: When you do models of the storm, how great a storm surge are you predicting?

FOX: Oh, about 20 to 25 feet at the highest. And that is going to cause some problems. Galveston seawall is only about 16 feet above sea level. So, right now, with a 20-foot surge there at Galveston, you're expecting about four feet of water to go over that wall. And that's why we're telling people that they should heed those evacuation warnings if they haven't already.

BLOCK: And farther inland, up toward Houston?

FOX: Up toward Houston, it's not going to be quite as big but there in Houston Bay and the ship channel, you could have a few spots going up to around 25 feet. The heaviest storm surge looks like it's going to be over there in Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, and Cameron, Louisiana. That's where you're going to see the 20 to 25 feet storm surge in most of that areas. That or just above sea level, so you can have some flooding damage going on over there, too.

BLOCK: I want to ask you about a very stark warning that came from another office of the National Weather Service. It said, for people, if they live in single and double-level homes and do not evacuate, you face certain death. What do you make of that warning, and which people are they referring to there?

FOX: So, it's not going to be the winds, it's not going to be the duration of the winds, but the storm surge itself is the big deal.

BLOCK: Have you seen a warning like that before, you face certain death?

FOX: And when public officials tell you that under mandatory evacuations, you should probably heed them.

BLOCK: And the worst of the storm would be when?

FOX: That's going to be about 2:00 or 3:00 Central time, tomorrow, early morning. And that's going to be right there around the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston Island and over toward Beaumont, all around through Texas.

BLOCK: Mr. Fox, thanks very much.

FOX: Thank you, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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