- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

UPDATED:

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Residents here marveled at the high tide Friday afternoon, some wishing they had left and others relieved that their city won’t suffer a direct hit from powerful Hurricane Ike.

“I’ve lived here 30 years and I’ve never seen it look like this,” said Nancy Hagopian (CQ), pointing to the Gulf tide off Padre Balli Park in Padre Island, which as of Friday afternoon was 60 feet further inland than normal, covering a parking lot and coastal roads with thunderous waves.

Hurricane Ike was still about eight hours away from Corpus Christi, which was expected to get hit only by the outskirts of the storm early Saturday morning.

Ms. Hagopian, 51, said seeing the already large surge Friday almost made her regret not evacuating.

“When I saw the storm move north, I decided to stay, but I didn’t expect this,” she said of the surge.

Others had evacuated but returned when the storm’s path moved north Thursday.

“When the storm changed, we came back,” said Trey and Heidi Tumlinson of Corpus Christi.

Still, many had evacuated and stayed away, store clerks said Friday.

“It’s slowing down,” said Ana Gonzalez, manager of Stripes gas station and convenience store. “Everybody is gone.”

Some stores remained open despite boarded up windows, while others decided to close early.

Residents gathered along the shores to watch the waves. Some ventured out onto piers and tried surfing.

“We wanted to see some waves,” said Sam Phillips, 23, who with friends went out to a long pier by now just a few feet above the Gulf waters. They planned to host a hurricane party that night.

Many of those gathered along the shores were thinking about Galveston, the small island town directly in Hurricane Ike’s path.

“This is nothing compared to what Galveston is going to get,” said Albert Rent, a nearly lifelong Corpus Christi resident, while watching the waves. “If it was coming here, I wouldn’t be here.”

Ike threatened on Friday to push into Texas like a battering ram, nearly the size of the Lone Star State itself, sending giant waves over the top of a 17-foot seawall in Galveston, trapping more than 60 people who had to be rescued by a helicopter.

About a million people in low-lying coastal areas had already been evacuated as the hurricane approached at 12 miles per hour, although about 90,000 in three coastal counties refused to leave, authorities said.

The biggest threat is the expected floodwaters and a storm surge that likely will reach as high as 25 feet.

A total of 572,000 people live within storm surge area and it will directly impact six drinking water plants, 34 wastewater treatment facilities, 54 police stations, 89 fire stations and 32 ambulance services. The surge also will effect 10 hospitals with more than 10 beds, 47 nursing Homes, 7 wire centers, 140 electric power substations, 48 non-nuclear generating units and 10 industrial plants including oil refineries and chemical plants with 41 generators.

Authorities projected power outages for more than 5 million customers.

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