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It’s been a decade since the Houston area was pummeled by Hurricane Ike, leading to months of headaches and years of repairs to property and industry.
The Category 2 hurricane made landfall on Sept. 13, 2008, just after 2 a.m., hitting Galveston first and then moving onto the mainland and blazing a trail of damage.
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Though it was a Category 2 storm, it packed a Category 5 storm surge, which spelled doom for island property, most notably along the Bolivar Peninsula. Winds topped out at 110 miles per hour here in the Houston area. The area was lucky as the hurricane, elsewhere, at its peak was a Category 4.
Its girth — winds of hurricane force spanned 120 miles and those at tropical-storm force spread over 275 miles — made for epic storm surge with 10- to 13-foot water levels along Galveston Island and flooding of 13 to 17 feet on the Bolivar Peninsula. Water rose up to 20 feet in parts of Chambers County, the National Weather Service reported.
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It got downgraded to a tropical depression as it hit Dallas later that night at around midnight. As the hurricane moved north and into Canada as a powerful storm it dumped a record amount of rainfall on Ontario. Oddly enough the remnants of the storm made it to, of all places, Iceland by Sept. 17, 2008.
Those of us who were here in Houston at the time can share tales of long lines to buy gas or ice, power outages that lasted days and even weeks, and haggling with insurance adjusters. Sixty-one percent of the flood losses were not covered by insurance, adding to the misery after Ike.
At the height of the outages, 2.6 million of us were without power, and it took an army of CenterPoint employees, with help from out-of-state crews, to get the area back online.
As Houstonians seem to make the most out of a traumatic community event, hurricane parties abounded. The city of Houston had a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for a short time and people bonded over the hardships and neighbors finally met each other.
There was also something called the “Ike Baby Spike” according to the New York Times which visited a Houston hospital the following May as the Women’s Hospital of Texas prepared to open a a new expanded wing to accommodate a summer of births.
In all, Ike cost the Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas areas some $29.5 billion, ranking it behind Katrina and Andrew in terms of most expensive hurricanes.
In the wake of the storm, Galveston has come out better than ever with increased development in the area and a sense of renewal, although as hurricane season begins each year some fearful eyes turn to the Gulf of Mexico.
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The name Ike was retired in 2009 from the revolving list of hurricane names due to the damages and deaths it brought.
An April 2009 FEMA report on Hurricane Ike includes studies on how local infrastructure held up against the hurricane and offered recommendations for further construction in the area. As bad as Ike was, the consensus by analysts was that it could have been much, much worse.
Later, in 2017, Houston would experience Hurricane Harvey making Ike look like a dress rehearsal.