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Texas Takes Stock Of Ike's Impact

Rescuers in boats, helicopters and high-water trucks fanned out along the flood-stricken Texas coast Saturday in a monumental effort to reach tens of thousands of people who stubbornly ignored warnings and tried to ride out Hurricane Ike.

The storm roared ashore hours before daybreak with 110 mph winds and towering waves, smashing houses, flooding thousands of homes, blowing out windows in Houston's skyscrapers, and cutting off power to more than 3 million people. Utility companies were already warning that it may take up to a month to restore power to all the affected areas, reports CBS News correspondent Hari Sreenivasan. Some homes, though, had power restored Saturday night.

By nightfall, it appeared that Ike was not the single calamitous stroke that forecasters had feared. But the full extent of the damage - or even a rough sense of how many people may have perished was still unclear, in part because many roads were impassable.

Some authorities feared that this could instead become a slow-motion disaster, with thousands of victims trapped in their homes, waiting for days to be rescued.

"We will be doing this probably for the next week or more. We hope it doesn't turn into a recovery," said Sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Marlow in Orange County, where 600 to 700 people had to be rescued from flooded homes. He said hundreds were probably still stranded. (Read damage reports for the Houston area, courtesy of CBS affiliate KHOU-TV.)

By some estimates, more than 140,000 of the 1 million or so people who had been ordered to evacuate the coast as Ike drew near may have tried to tough it out. Many of them evidently realized the mistake too late, and pleaded with authorities in vain to save them overnight.

The storm, which killed more than 80 in the Caribbean before reaching the U.S., was blamed for at least four lives, two each in Texas and Louisiana.

Since Ike made landfall, there have been 940 rescues in Texas of people stranded in homes, vehicles and elsewhere, said Gov. Rick Perry's spokeswoman Allison Castle. In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal said nearly 600 people were plucked from Ike's floodwaters since Friday and that search and rescue teams believe the largest number of rescues was behind them.

A downgraded Ike clung to tropical storm status late Saturday with sustained winds near 40 mph. The storm's core was about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas, at 11 p.m. EDT as Ike rumbled northward out of Texas, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported.

The center warned residents of Arkansas, northern Louisiana and southern Missouri that Ike was still dangerous and could unleash isolated tornadoes and dump from 3 to 8 inches of rain anywhere in a wide swath of the nation's midsection.

A man named Michael told The Early Show weather anchor Dave Price that he and two friends rode out the storm and were rescued from the roof of their apartment building in Galveston, Texas.

"We made it through [Hurricane] Carla, made it through Alicia," he said. "We all assumed we would make it through this one."

Ronnie Sharp, 65, and his terrier-mix Princess, had to be rescued from his trailer in Orange County when water reached his knees. "I was getting too many snakes in the house, otherwise I would have stayed," Sharp said. He said he lost most everything in the flood.

After the storm had passed, National Guardsmen and crews from the Coast Guard, FEMA and state and local law enforcement authorities mobilized for what Perry pronounced "the largest search-and-rescue operation in the history of the state of Texas."

Hundreds of those rescued from inundated Orange County homes were expected to be bused to shelters elsewhere in Texas.

Some emergency officials were angry and frustrated that so many people ignored the warnings.

"When you stay behind in the face of a warning, not only do you jeopardize yourself, you put the first responders at risk as well," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said. "Now we're going to see this play out."

Steve LeBlanc, Galveston's city manager, said: "There was a mandatory evacuation, and people didn't leave, and that is very frustrating because now we are having to deal with everybody who did not heed the order."


Photos: Ike Smashes Texas
Because Ike was so huge - some 500 miles across, making it nearly as big as Texas itself - hurricane winds pounded the coast for hours before and after the storm waded ashore. Ike soon weakened to a tropical storm en route inland, but continued to pound the state with 60 mph winds and rain.

Officials were encouraged to learn that the storm surge topped out at only 15 feet - far lower than the catastrophic 20-to-25 foot wall of water forecasters had feared.

Preliminary industry estimates indicate damage at $8 billion.

Damage to the nation's biggest complex of refineries and petrochemical plants appeared to be slight, but gasoline prices shot up for fear that the supply would be interrupted by power outages and the time necessary to restart a refinery. In some parts of the country, gas prices surged briefly to $5 a gallon.

Hundreds of people were rescued from their flooded-out homes, in many cases by emergency crews that had to make their way through high water and streets blocked by peeled-away roofs, wayward yachts and uprooted trees.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(Left: Debris is seen scattered across Highway 146 in Kemah, Texas, after Hurricane Ike moved through the area, Sept. 13, 2008.)

Chertoff cautioned the death toll could rise as searchers reached remote areas.

Among deaths in Texas, a woman was killed in her sleep when a tree fell on her home near Pinehurst, and a 19-year-old man slipped off a jetty near Corpus Christi and was apparently washed away.

In Louisiana, Terrebonne Parish coroner senior investigator Gary Alford says a 16-year-old boy drowned in his house in Bayou Dularge, when he fell through wooden pallets used as flooring and floodwaters rose. Alford also said a 57-year-old man died from a broken neck after he was blown over by wind.

Lisa Lee spent hours on the roof of her Bridge City home with her husband, John, her 16-year-old brother, William Robinson, and their two dogs. They dove into 8-foot floodwaters and swam to safety after a sheriff's deputy arrived in a truck and drove as close to their home as he could. Their dogs paddled to safety behind them.

"It was like a dream," said William Robinson, while his sister shivered in a blanket at a shelter at a Baptist church in Orange.

A convoy of search-and-rescue teams from Texas and California drove into Galveston - where the storm came ashore at 3:10 a.m. EDT after bulldozers cleared away mountains of debris. Interstate 45, the only road onto the island, was littered with overturned yachts, dead pelicans and debris from homes and docks.

Homes and other buildings in Galveston and homes burned unattended during the height of Ike's fury; 17 collapsed because crews couldn't get to them to douse the flames. There was no water or electricity on the island, and the main hospital, the University of Texas Medical Branch, flew critically ill patients to other medical center.

As they waited to return home, some evacuees were having a difficult time dealing with the uncertainty surrounding their homes and communities, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman. At a shelter in Austin, Trisha Medina was losing it.

"I don't want my house gone," she said. "I like my house. It's not the best house but it's mine."

Volunteer Louis Blaze, who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina three years ago, had advice for the evacuees.

"I would tell them to let the system work for you, not against you," he said. "I mean it takes time."
President Bush declared a major disaster in his home state of Texas and ordered immediate federal aid.

In downtown Houston, shattered glass rained down on the streets below the JPMorgan Chase Tower, the state's tallest building at 75 stories. Trees were uprooted in the streets, road signs mangled by wind.

"I think we're like at ground zero," said Mauricio Diaz, 36, as he walked amid broken glass from the Chase building.

Southwest Louisiana was spared a direct hit, but Ike's surge of water penetrated some 30 miles inland, flooding thousands of homes, breaching levees and soaking areas still recovering from Labor Day's Hurricane Gustav. Officials said the flooding was worse than it was during 2005's Hurricane Rita, which hit the Louisiana-Texas line.

But there was good news: A stranded freighter with 22 men aboard made it through the storm safely, and a tugboat was on the way to save them. And an evacuee from Calhoun County gave birth to a girl in the restroom of a shelter with the aid of an expert in geriatric psychiatry who delivered his first baby in two decades. She named the baby Katrina.

Ike's Impact On Economy May Be Less Than Feared

A small change in Ike's course just before it crashed into the Texas coast may have spared the state and the nation from significantly worse economic damage.

The center of the storm appeared to miss the vital concentration of oil and petrochemical refineries in the Houston area, and the surge of water rolling into the nation's second-largest port was also weaker than predicted.

"If the eye of that storm had been as much as 20 miles east, we would have a lot more havoc and damage than we did," said Chris Johnson, a senior vice president at commercial property insurer FM Global.

Much of the region's industrial recovery will depend on how quickly power companies can restore electricity; that, in turn, will depend on how quickly the utilities can get employees back to work.

"I received a call from one of my employees, who was evacuated to San Antonio. He was just informed that his house was totally destroyed," said Bill Reid, the CEO of Ohmstede, which builds and repairs refineries. Reid, who lives in Kemah, Texas, about 35 miles south of Houston, said his town was without power and water, and still had 15 feet of flooding.

The port of Houston, the nation's second-largest, was without power Saturday but expects to reopen Monday morning if the Coast Guard finds no obstacles in the shipping lanes. Some empty cargo containers were blown about, but not too far.

"All the terminals did very well and we had only very minor damage, like fencing being blown down," said port spokeswoman Argentina James.

Refineries as far east as Louisiana were affected by the storm, however. The tourist island town of Galveston was flooded and office buildings in downtown Houston were damaged, but it could have been worse.

"It appears that, at least from our facility and operations standpoint, the impact is a little less than we did anticipate," said Mike Smid, chief executive of trucking company YRC North America, which runs Yellow and Roadway lines. The company evacuated its 900 employees ahead of the storm.

Preliminary estimates put the damage at $8 billion or more, but a precise accounting of the storm's wrath was far from complete.


Photos: Irascible Ike
Travelers Insurance had teams of adjusters, claims agents and logistics people with laptops and ladders in San Antonio who are planning to leave for Houston Sunday, said spokesman Matthew S. Bordonaro.

"It will be some time before we have any damage estimates," said Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for Allstate Corp. "Our focus right now is to get into the hardest-hit areas once it is safe to do so."

Retail gasoline prices jumped Saturday based on Ike's collision with refinery rich regions of Texas and Louisiana, threatening to shut down a variety of energy complexes in the Gulf of Mexico for days.

Some refineries may remain shut for days, even if there was no serious wind damage or flooding. Gas prices nationwide rose nearly 6 cents a gallon to $3.733, according to industry data.

Service stations around Texas and elsewhere raised prices sharply even before the storm hit, and lines to fill up could be seen as far away as Dallas.

Ike was about twice the size of Hurricane Gustav, which rammed into the Louisiana shore two weeks ago. While the storm surge was less severe than what had been predicted, National Weather Service officials said a the highest - a surge of about 13.5 feet - was seen at Sabine Pass in Texas.

The Sabine Pipe Line, a crucial natural gas conduit, has been shut down, according to the CME Group, parent of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Shell Oil said Saturday morning that crews would fly over oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico Saturday or Sunday to assess damage. The U.S. subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC said it could take days to weeks before full production could resume at its facilities.

Valero Energy Corp. spokesman Bill Day said crews would soon get in to inspect refineries in Houston and Texas City, which remained shut down. Both, plus another refinery in Port Arthur, lost power in the storm, he said.

Alcoa said its alumina refinery in Point Comfort, Texas, 125 miles southwest of Houston, will begin the restart process on Sunday.

The storm pushed a surge of water through the Houston shipping channel, a complex of oil and petrochemical refineries, and the nation's second-largest port.

Windows were ripped out of office buildings in downtown Houston. At the 75-story JPMorganChase tower, the tallest building in Texas, curtains could be seen flapping in the breeze and glass shards littered the streets below.

Power was out in much of Houston, although the lights stayed on in the city's huge medical center, a sprawling complex with about a dozen hospitals that attract patients from around the world.

Flights in and out of Houston's two major airports were suspended on Friday and not likely to resume until Sunday.

Southwest Airlines said it would shut down flights at Dallas Love Field, its home airport, for several hours Saturday as Dallas

240 miles north of Houston - was expected to take a glancing blow from Ike.

Officials at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the largest hub for American Airlines, warned that winds and heavy rain could cause delays or cancelations.

Air service to smaller cities in Texas, including Corpus Christi and Harlingen, was also disrupted.