Texas Residents Prepare For Hurricane Ike

Evacuation orders are in effect in Texas for low-lying sections of Houston. Hurricane Ike is currently a Category 2 storm and is expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, a conversation with a woman who advises Senator McCain on an important voting group, Evangelicals.

BRAND: But first, scientists are calling it a monster headed straight for Houston.

CHADWICK: It's still many hours away, maybe as much as a day, for making land. But it is so big, Hurricane Ike, that coastal towns like Galveston are already feeling the effects.

BRAND: NPR's Mandalit del Barco is at an emergency center in Houston. And Mandalit, the situation there, some people, I understand, are being advised to stay, board up their windows and hunkered down and others to evacuate?

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Well, Madeleine, evacuation orders were in effect for people living in the low-lying sections of Houston. But officials, as you noted, have told people who live inland not to start flocking to the highways and to the roads. Actually, that's what happened in 2005, you might remember, when Hurricane Rita was threatening on a city. A hundred and nineteen people have actually died trying to leave, and the storm itself only killed nine people. But you know, this morning, Mayor Bill White gave a press conference right here where I'm at, and this is what he said.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Mayor BILL WHITE (Democrat, Houston, Texas): It's going to be a scary 36 hours unless you're one of these people that are crazy that you see on TV that they start driving toward tornadoes and hurricanes. This is going to be very unusual circumstance for our community.

DEL BARCO: Mayor White also warned people not to go to emergency shelters, not yet, not until if and when the storm actually causes some damage here in Houston.

BRAND: So, on the roads, what are you seeing? Are people heading out? Are the roads packed? Are people, you know, buying up grocery stores?

DEL BARCO: Well, the roads seem to be pretty empty for now, at least here in Houston. I saw long lines of people trying to leave the city last night. But I know that people in Houston have been stocking up with groceries, getting gasoline into their cars, packing their belongings, just in case. Now, I was at Wal-Mart last night, and I could not find water or batteries.

Some of the shelves were empty, and they were long lines of people waiting to fill up their big water jugs from the Culligan man. Some people, as you noted, have boarded up their windows and have been advised to stay away from their windows, too. But it's not really raining yet in Houston. It probably will get worse today. And of course, people in Galveston and at the other coastal areas have evacuated.

BRAND: Galveston, about 50 miles away from Houston?

DEL BARCO: Fifty miles, yes, south and on the coast.

BRAND: What about reports that there is this freighter broken down in the Gulf, people on it, in the path of the storm, and no way for the Coast Guard to get out there and rescue those people?

DEL BARCO: Yeah, it's pretty scary. From what I know, the Coast Guard was trying to rescue 22 people that were on board that freighter by helicopter, but the winds are more than 100 miles an hour. The waves are potentially 50 feet tall, and that has stopped the rescue mission for now.

BRAND: So, they just have to ride out the storm, the people there?

DEL BARCO: That's what I understand so far. You know, that ship was hauling petroleum coke to use to fuel furnaces at steel plants. But there weren't any details on where it was headed, where it was going, and as of right now, I really don't know what's happening with that freighter.

BRAND: NPR's Mandalit del Barco at an emergency center in Houston, waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Ike. Thank you, Mandalit.

BRAND: Thanks, Madeleine.

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