On The Ground With Hurricane Ike

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NPR's Ari Shapiro is in Houston, Texas. He talks with host Scott Simon about the latest damage from Hurricane Ike. Pounding rains have hit Houston and thousands of people have called for help. Power outages are widespread.


This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Emergency and repair crews are starting to fan out in Texas as Hurricane Ike weakens. Cleanup, though, will be extensive. Roads and buildings are flooded throughout the region. Downtown Houston is covered in shards blown out of skyscrapers. Galveston's historic district is under water. Millions of people are without power.

NPR's Ari Shapiro rode out the storm in Houston. He's now on his way to Galveston. Ari, thanks for being with us. We seem to have lost NPR's Ari Shapiro, who should be en route from Houston to Galveston. We do have...

ARI SHAPIRO: I'm right here.

SIMON: Oh, OK. Ari, thanks for being with us. On your ride out of Houston, what did you see?

SHAPIRO: You know, as we've gone south, the weather has gotten better and the destruction has gotten worse. Within Houston, there are police officers all over downtown because windows were shattered in various skyscrapers and office furniture and papers were actually pulled out of some of those buildings, and so officers are on the street stopping people to make sure that no one is around in what is still very heavy winds and rain.

Now that we're closer to Galveston, where the storm first came ashore, the weather has cleared up but we're seeing, you know, buildings made out of substantial material, bricks and metal, are shredded as though they were made out of paper or Styrofoam. There are access roads parallel to the freeway here that are just completely flooded, and every actual body of water we have seen has been over the banks, brown, swollen, and, you know, you can tell that a major hurricane has been through here. I mean, we're seeing three billboards right next to me that are just shredded into strips.

SIMON: Are there any people visible or people coming out? Because a lot of people decided not to evacuate.

SHAPIRO: That's right. There's more traffic on the Interstate than I expected. Officials are saying people should not be out driving now. Certainly within Houston, they're really concerned about the debris on the streets, downed power lines. The people who did leave Galveston are anxious to get back. Forecasters were predicting a storm surge in Galveston of 25 feet. As it turns out, the storm surge there was reported to be only 11 feet, and so a lot of people who left fearing their homes could be washed away now want to get back and, A, see what kind of damage there is, and B, make sure there isn't any kind of looting or other, you know, damage to their home while they're away from it.

SIMON: Hurricanes are a danger, aren't they, in the wake - forgive me. Tornados are a danger in the wake of a hurricane, aren't they?

SHAPIRO: Tornadoes, and you know, the most deaths happen in a hurricane after the storm passes. Accidents with chain saws, with downed power lines, people falling through soggy roofs, so officials are really putting the message out there that just because the storm is passing over does not mean the danger is gone.

SIMON: NPR's Ari Shapiro who was en route from Houston to Galveston to survey the wreckage and report back to us. We'll be continuing to cover this story. Thank you very much, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Good to talk to you.

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