Ike leaves trail of destruction through Texas

The massive hurricane halts more than a fifth of US oil production and is now heading for Arkansas.

A boarded up home sits along the beach as Hurricane Ike approaches on Sept 12 in Galveston, Texas.
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HOUSTON // Hurricane Ike barreled into the densely populated Texas coast near Houston early on Saturday, bringing with it a wall of water and ferocious winds and rain that flooded large areas along the Gulf of Mexico and paralysed the fourth-largest US city. Ike, a massive hurricane that has idled more than a fifth of US oil production, came ashore at the barrier island city of Galveston as a strong Category 2 storm at 2.10am local time with 175kph winds, the National Hurricane Center said. George W Bush said the government would monitor petrol prices to "make sure consumers are not being gouged" and added he was seeking to attract more foreign imports to make up for supply disruptions caused by the storm. Petrol prices across the United States rose more than five cents to $3.73 a gallon on average today. The raging storm drove a wall of water that flooded Galveston and submerged a five-metre sea wall built to protect the city after a hurricane in 1900 killed at least 8,000 people. More than half its 60,000 residents had fled and emergency operations were suspended. Forecasters said the Hdrricane Ike is moving away from Houston and is expected to head north-east toward Arkansas .as. Sherry Gill, a grandmother, spent the night in League City, roughly halfway between Galveston and Houston, despite an evacuation order, huddling with her family and listening to the wind howling over her shuttered home. "It was a night of sheer terror. I thought the roof was going to lift off," she said. About 80km inland, Ike lashed downtown Houston's skyscrapers, blowing out windows and sending debris flying through water-logged streets. Downed trees and power lines and rising waters left many streets impassable. Both of the former Enron towers, now occupied by Chevron Corp, were pocked with broken windows. There were also reports that the 75-story Chase Tower has numerous windows broken. Ike was the biggest storm to hit a US city since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. The storm was downgraded to a Category 1 on the hurricane intensity scale earlier today, carrying top sustained winds near 145kph and moving north, but officials said it was too soon to assess the extent of the damage. Ed Emmett, a Harris County judge, told reporters the winds had not been "extraordinarily high, certainly for a hurricane". The main concern was the storm surge zone, the area affected by the wall of water pushed inland, and what had happened to coastal residents. Hurricane force winds were expected to rip through Houston until around midday and tropical storm strength winds to continue for hours after that. Houston is home to 2.2 million people, and its metropolitan area has about 5.6 million. "We expected a major storm and our expectations unfortunately came true," said Mark Miner, a spokesman for the Texas governor Rick Perry. "The weather needs to clear up a little bit to see just what the devastation was." In Galveston, emergency officials were sending patrols onto water-logged streets to begin assessing the damage. "We do have reports of damage but we're just now to the point where it is safe for our units to get out and start making assessments," the Galveston County Emergency Management operations manager Lee Lockwood said. The hurricane shut down more than a dozen oil refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, the heart of the US oil industry, where 22 per cent of fuel supplies are processed. Energy experts said they expected some would sustain damage from flooding, leaving them shut for several weeks. *Reuters and other agencies