WEBSTER — As bad as Hurricane Ike was, hurricane expert Bill Read believes it could have been worse. Much worse.

He told the local chapter of the American Meteorology Society last week that if Ike had wobbled just a short jog to the south, making landfall at San Luis Pass, it would then have inundated Clear Lake and the ship channel industries with as much as two stories of storm surge and rainwater.

Supercomputer simulations show that shift would have put an additional 170,000 residences, all of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and most of the area’s petrochemical plants underwater. Instead, that particular portion of Ike’s destructive surge actually was directed east into wetlands and wilderness areas.

Read, the former head of the National Hurricane Center, is now the on-air hurricane expert for KPRC-TV. He spoke to the assembled weather experts about areas that his studies suggest could be even more vulnerable than the Galveston-Houston area.

Read’s research targeted the West Coast of Florida; the Jacksonville, Fla., area; the Virginia Tidewater region; the Lower Rio Grande Valley; and the area between Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.

All Read’s target areas lie at low elevations, have limited escape routes — some of which flood quickly — and all have coastal populations that have grown exponentially since they last experienced a major storm. Many also are filled with retirees.

“Studies show that retirees are the most resistant when it comes to evacuation,” he said.

Thankfully, Galveston’s evacuation routes don’t pass through tunnels, nor are they just above sea level as is the case in some of Read’s worst-case cities, but the take-away remains the same for those in Galveston County. Keep an eye on the Gulf and have a plan to leave safely when, not if, a storm threatens.

“The first thing I want folks to do is for them to become their own meteorologist by checking the weather twice a day,” Read said. “When you get up, catch the local TV, Internet or Weather Channel so you’re not surprised by a storm. Then repeat that process each evening during the season.”

Read pointed out that storms can form quickly and be on shore within as little as 48 hours, a Texas-sized threat most of the other vulnerable locations needn’t fear. 

The colder waters of the East Coast don’t often allow for that kind of rapid formation and intensification. Instead, East Coast citizens often can see potential threats moving across open water for as much as a week before landfall.

Read’s own house is on some the highest ground in Galveston County. Though not officially in a flood zone, he said he always carries flood insurance and recommends that practice to all local homeowners.

“During my research, I was also dismayed to find out how many people in these places don’t carry flood insurance,” he said. 

“If you don’t have flood insurance, you are the insurer.”

(11) comments

Robert Buckner

I agree with Bill Read. Another foot or two of surge would have toppled the levee around Texas City and LaMarque increasing damages and possibly the loss of life.

Mark Johnson

Another fear mongering headline. Of course Ike could have been much worse. If it hit at high tide it could have been much worse. If it had been a catagory 4 or 5 it could have been much worse. If it had spawned more tornados it could have been much worse. If it had hit on Labor Day weekend it could have been much worse.
every damaging weather phenomenon or natural disaster, could be much worse if, if, if,.....

Sandra Stern

Another reason to support the return of LOCAL radio!

Kathy Maddox

I've got news for you. Flood insurance from a hurricane is pretty much WORTHLESS!

Steve Fouga

Why?

Miceal O'Laochdha

Is this story just a test to see who is awake?

Suggest the latest would-be expert, parlaying time served at the Hurricane Center into a lucrative TV career on "Forecasting with the Stars", check and see where landfall was in Alicia.

Good to know that the Gulf Freeway, just on the Mainland side of the causeway, is not a "low lying" area. I guess all those boats that piled up there in both Alicia and Ike were dropped there by helicopters?

Flood insurance? The only ones who can reliably say they have that are national FEMA camp followers like CDM Smith. And maybe celebrity forecasters...

Kathy Maddox

Flood insurance just paid $300 to have the garage cleaned out in Jamaica Beach. It was storm surge (salt)water). Worthless!

Joel Martin

My flood paid 100% after Ike. They don't pay for anything on the ground so consider your 300$ a gift.

Mark Johnson

They don't pay for anything on the ground? I've never seen a flood that wasn't on the ground. What is the purpose of it if it doesn't cover flooring, furniture, walls, etc, that are on the ground or in contact with the ground?

Kevin Lang

I think this might refer to flood-prone structures where the home is built on stilts. In those cases, only the structure is ensured below the main living space. Nothing stored beneath the home is. In other words, if your home is on stilts, don't store anything of value that can't handle getting and staying soaked below the deck.

Gary Miller

This 28 year retiree evacuates a day early. If IKE had caused more damage on my property I might have needed to replace more than my mail box. TC didn,t flood during IKE. A few overage roofs were damaged by wind. A few ceder fences blown over.

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