AUSTIN, Texas, September 10, 2008 (ENS) - Early this morning, the center of Hurricane Ike was located about 125 miles north-northeast of Cabo San Antonio on the western tip of Cuba. More than one million Cubans evacuated and the storm claimed four lives as 20 inches of rain and 100 mph winds swept across the island. More than 600 people died as Ike blasted across Haiti last week.
Ike currently is moving toward the west-northwest near eight mph and this motion is expected to continue for the next day or so, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph with higher gusts, which makes Ike a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Over the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it is expected to strengthen, and the National Weather Service is forecasting Ike will intensify to a Category 3 hurricane in the central Gulf.
Estimated landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast will be 85 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, Texas on Saturday, September 13 at about 5 am local time.
Forecasters say hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles. The storm brushed Florida, flooding low-lying areas of Key West.
In view of the hurricane's deadly threat, Texas Governor Rick Perry Tuesday ordered the pre-deployment of state resources to prepare for evacuation of coastal areas as the storm tracks toward Texas. Evacuations could begin as early as today.
The governor issued a disaster declaration for 88 counties on Monday, which readies the state to provide assistance to local officials.
"We continue to closely monitor this storm and are preparing accordingly for its potential impact to our communities," said Governor Perry. "Hurricane Ike is making its way to the Gulf as we speak, and it is imperative that residents pay attention to this storm, heed warnings from their local leaders, and take the steps necessary to protect their families, homes and businesses."
In anticipation of Ike's landfall, up to 1,350 buses are available to support potential evacuations, with more than 800 en route today to pre-stage in San Antonio and 150 heading to Bee County.
Up to 7,500 guardsmen are on standby for rapid deployment as needed. Six UH-60 helicopters are stationed in Austin and four in San Antonio, and five C-130 aircraft are on standby in Fort Worth.
Two task forces from the Texas Engineering Extension Service are on standby if search and rescue capabilities are needed.
The Texas Department of Transportation has put up message signs urging residents along the coast to fuel up their vehicles to be ready for possible evacuation orders. The state's Fuel Team is working to ensure adequate fuel supplies along potential evacuation routes and monitoring demand increases. People who are unable to evacuate themselves can let responders know who and where they are before an emergency or evacuation takes place by calling 2-1-1.
Commercial vehicle enforcement troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety are inspecting buses in San Antonio that may be needed for evacuations.
More than 100 troopers across Texas are pre-staging in Corpus Christi, and the regional DPS Disaster District operations centers have been activated in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and McAllen.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is making plans for air and ground evacuation of hospital patients as needed along the Texas coast from Corpus Christi southward. Five federal medical stations are being set up to receive medical special needs evacuees.
The state's 2-1-1 information and referral network has answered thousands of calls related to Ike since midnight Monday.
Nursing homes and other licensed facilities in coastal regions are being contacted to make sure their emergency plans are up-to-date. Staff are closely monitoring conditions to ensure the safety of those at the Corpus Christi State School.
The Department of Family and Protective Services is instructing foster parents and other caregivers how to report the whereabouts of children in foster care if they evacuate.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice today took the precaution of moving 12 female dialysis patients from the Carole S. Young Medical Facility Complex in Dickinson to the Estelle Unit in Huntsville. The agency is staging nearly 60 inmate transport buses in the Beeville area should the evacuation of South Texas prison facilities become necessary.
The Texas Department of Agriculture is prepared to distribute food commodities and will coordinate distribution efforts with the Salvation Army and American Red Cross. Plans are underway to protect livestock in the Texas Department of Agriculture's export pens in the path of Ike.
Public Utility Commission is asking electricity providers and telecommunications companies along the Gulf Coast to begin emergency preparations, such as reviewing emergency operations plans, updating critical care customer lists, checking inventories, and alerting crews.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has requested an extended authorization for the fuel waivers from Hurricane Gustav earlier this month and is prepared to respond to impacts from Hurricane Ike. A strike team capable of handling hazardous materials assembled in Austin today. The TCEQ is working with local agencies preparing to address any environmental impact issues that may result from Ike.
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is making hurricane housing resources for communities available on the agency's website http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us. The department will contact community action agencies in the projected path of the storm and advise them that they may be called upon to serve more people.
Texas Animal Health Commission is coordinating with its member agencies and encouraging residents to call 2-1-1 for the latest shelter information for pets and livestock.
The Emergency Management Council and State Operations Center are fully activated. The State Operations Center is closely monitoring Hurricane Ike, and holding twice daily conference calls with federal, state and local officials, private industry partners, volunteer organizations, and the National Weather Service.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.