- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2008

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas | Hurricane Ike crashed into Galveston Island and the Houston area early Saturday as a strong Category 2 storm, blowing out windows, disrupting power to millions of people and flooding low-lying areas.

In Houston, rescue crews in high-wheel trucks, helicopters and boats ventured out to pluck people from their homes Saturday in an all-out search for thousands of Texans who stubbornly stayed behind to face Hurricane Ike.

State and local officials began searching for survivors by late morning, just hours after Ike roared ashore in Galveston with 110 mph winds, heavy rains and towering waves. Overnight, dispatchers received thousands of calls from frightened residents who bucked mandatory orders to leave as the storm closed in.

For more photos of Ike’s devastation:Ike’s Wrath Continues

Authorities were frustrated but vowed to get to the more than 140,000 people who stayed behind as soon as they could.

“This is a democracy,” said Mark Miner, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican. “Local officials who can order evacuations put out very strong messages. Governor Perry put out a very strong warning. But you can’t force people to leave their homes. They made a decision to ride out the storm. Our prayers are with them.”

For more, check out the Hurricane Ike Blog.

The storm sideswiped Corpus Christi, though the hurricane’s first U.S. death was reported here when four men were pulled out to sea Friday afternoon off a Padre Island pier.

Three of the men - who had jumped in to save a 19-year-old man who fell into the crushing waves and storm surge - were rescued and hospitalized. The Coast Guard searched for the fourth man before suspending the search Friday night.

In Montgomery County, a woman died early Saturday when a tree fell and crushed her as she slept in her home near Pinehurst.

Ike killed more than 80 in the Caribbean before hitting the United States, and its death toll on the Gulf Coast is expected to rise.

President Bush declared nearly all of the coastal counties a federal disaster area, opening access to federal aid.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) is conducting 13 missions for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including aerial reconnaissance, transport and law enforcement.


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