This story was co-published with the Texas Tribune.
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It is not if, but when Houston’s perfect storm will hit.
They called Ike “the monster hurricane.”
Hundreds of miles wide. Winds at more than 100 mph. And — deadliest of all — the power to push a massive wall of water into the upper Texas coast, killing thousands and shutting down a major international port and industrial hub.
That was what scientists, public officials, economists, and weather forecasters thought they were dealing with on Sept. 11, 2008, as Hurricane Ike barreled toward Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States and home to its largest refining and petrochemical complex. And so at 8:19 p.m., the National Weather Service issued an unusually dire warning.
“ALL NEIGHBORHOODS, AND POSSIBLY ENTIRE COASTAL COMMUNITIES, WILL BE INUNDATED,” the alert read. “PERSONS NOT HEEDING EVACUATION ORDERS IN SINGLE FAMILY ONE OR TWO STORY HOMES WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH.”
But in the wee hours of Sept. 13, just 50 miles offshore, Ike shifted course. The wall of water the storm was projected to push into the Houston area was far smalle... Read more