Hurricane Ike has become a Category 2 storm as it makes its way to Texas. Forecasters are now saying they think Hurricane Ike will probably make landfall somewhere around Corpus Christi, TX, on Saturday.
The storm, which killed more than 175 people as it swept over Caribbean islands, is expected to gain strength as it moves over the open waters of the Gulf. It’s expected to miss the oil platforms in the Gulf, but could bring torrential rain and winds of more than 100 miles an hour to southern Texas.
Officials in Matagorda County, about halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi, began a mandatory evacuation for residents in its coastal portions. Residents from Padre Island and from low-lying areas near Corpus Christi were ordered to evacuate.
People with severe medical conditions were being evacuated from the Corpus Christi area Wednesday morning, and a third lane of Interstate 37 northbound was opened for general evacuation. However, officials had not yet opened the southbound lanes of I-37 to northbound traffic – creating a so-called “contra-flow” – at press time.
Cpl. Charlie Ramirez of the Texas Department of Public Safety told Reed Black on Land Line Now Wednesday afternoon that a contra-flow would be in effect starting at 7 a.m. Thursday.
“Hopefully … the motoring public will do their job as far as being courteous and being patient to get everybody out if it is needed,” said Ramirez.
Texas governor Rick Perry has already declared 88 coastal counties in Texas a disaster area – to speed up state and federal aid – and emergency officials have lined up nearly a thousand buses to evacuate people, if needed.
Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report.