To Flee Or Not To Flee? Texans Decide As Ike Looms As the hurricane bears down on the Texan coast, residents from Galveston to Houston face mandatory evacuations. While many people are fleeing, others are staying put.
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To Flee Or Not To Flee? Texans Decide As Ike Looms

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To Flee Or Not To Flee? Texans Decide As Ike Looms

To Flee Or Not To Flee? Texans Decide As Ike Looms

To Flee Or Not To Flee? Texans Decide As Ike Looms

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

No Stranger To Disaster

No storm haunts the island town of Galveston, Texas, more than the hurricane of Sept. 8, 1900 — to this day, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Of the 38,000 people who lived in Galveston, at least 6,000 died in the storm.

In 2000, NPR talked with survivors in its Lost and Found Sound series.

Hear survivors recount the hurricane of Sept. 8, 1900.

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Melissa block, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Hurricane Ike has not hit Texas yet, but powerful waves and wind are already scouring the Gulf Coast. Ike is expected to make landfall overnight and there are predictions of a storm surge as high as 25 feet. More than a million people have evacuated and moved away from the coast. Galveston and Houston lie directly in the storm's path as do many refineries, chemical plants and offshore oil platforms.

We have three reporters traveling along the hurricane's path as communities prepare for the storm. First, NPR's Ari Shapiro in Galveston.

ARI SHAPIRO: We're driving through the streets of Galveston about 24 hours before the storm is schedule to come ashore. And the streets are empty but not as empty as I would have expected them to be given that this is a low lying area. There's a mandatory evacuation and local officials have used the phrase certain death to describe what people are in store for if they stick around.

(Soundbite of waves crashing)

ARI SHAPIRO: At the Gulf of Mexico, it looks like someone has photoshoped two images together. Above, the sky is blue and peaceful. Below, giant brown waves smash into the shore. Walls of water fly into the air throwing trash and driftwood unto the street. Ellie Parker lives a block away.

Ms. ELLIE PARKER (Galveston Resident): I've never seen — it's a foot over the sea wall now, so I'm nervous. We're in big trouble, aren't we?

SHAPIRO: A few blocks away, James Turner is in line to buy supplies at a packed gas station. He's lived in Galveston since 1940.

Mr. JAMES TURNER (Galveston Resident): Make a long story short, my wife passed Monday. We was going to have the funeral this weekend. They had to cancel everything, so I'm going to stay until everything is over.

SHAPIRO: His family has urged him to leave, but he won't go until he's buried his wife. Three years ago, Turner tried to evacuate during Hurricane Rita. He was stuck in traffic 21 hours.

Mr. TURNER: I'm not prepared for that anymore.

SHAPIRO: What was that experience like spending 21 hours in traffic?

Mr. TURNER: Very devastating because I worked all night the morning before I left. And it was 2:00, 3:00 in the morning before I found a place I could lay down. And I eventually stayed in Houston for the rest of it.

(Soundbite of conversation)

Mr. RICHARD ROBBINS: Over here, okay? All right.

Unidentified Man #1: All right then.

SHAPIRO: Richard Robbins is pretty much the exact opposite of James Turner.

Mr. RICHARD ROBBINS (Galveston Resident): I'm 17. I just moved here in Galveston about six months ago. This is my first hurricane.

SHAPIRO: While Turner is staying to be with his late wife, Robbins is leaving his father behind in Galveston.

Mr. ROBBINS: I didn't want to go. I wanted to stay. I was going to stay, but then my grandmother kept calling at 5:00 this morning saying, are y'all alright? Are y'all getting out of the city? My dad said, I'm not getting out of the city, but if you want me to send Richie, I'll send Richie. Okay, I'm sending Richie.

SHAPIRO: In another car, 23-year-old J.R. Franklin has just one supply to get through the next few days.

Mr. J.R. FRANKLIN: Cash. That's it. That's about the whole thing that's going to help us (unintelligible) now, some cash.

SHAPIRO: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Galveston.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: I'm Mandalit del Barco in Houston where oil refineries and the usually busy port are closed down. Most of Houston's two million residents hunkered down after being ordered not to leave, though some evacuated on their own.

Many people from Galveston and other towns arrived here hoping to take shelter with friends. And after stocking up on water and food, people like Houston's Jeremy Bristol decided to stay through the hurricane winds.

Mr. JEREMY BRISTOL (Houston Resident): I'm just not feeling threatened behind the storm. I just don't feel like the storm is going to bring on what people are saying it's going to bring on. So that's my reason for staying.

DEL BARCO: Not here in Houston, anyway.

Mr. BRISTOL: Exactly.

DEL BARCO: Bristol is among many who came to Houston three years ago to escape Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He lived in the hardest hit Lower Ninth Ward, not far from where the levees broke and flooded his entire neighborhood. Bristol, who is an assistant pastor, says he lost everything. But now, he and his family live in a brand-new house in a community called Angel Lane, a housing development Oprah Winfrey's foundation helped build for Katrina survivors.