Hurricane Ike blew ashore late last night, but not many people along the Gulf Coast were sleeping as the storm flooded several communities in Texas and Louisiana. The Department of Homeland Security said there were unconfirmed reports of "a few deaths" in the storm.
Ike arrived in Texas as a Category 2 hurricane and made a direct hit on the city of Galveston before making a pre-dawn strike on Houston. Ike's 100-plus mph winds damaged hundreds of buildings in Galveston and quickly swamped streets, leaving much of the island city underwater.
But the storm surge that forecasters feared could top 20 feet did not materialize. In most areas, it averaged about 13 feet, according to the National Weather Service. In Galveston it only hit 11 feet.
The Houston Ship Channel that leads to the Port of Houston held up and did not, as feared, overflow onto the city streets.
"The worst-case scenario that was projected did not materialize," Gov. Rick Perry told reporters this afternoon.
But the fate of the estimated 100,000 people who ignored evacuation orders along the coast is not clear and may take days to ascertain.
Galveston Island has been sealed off from residents, Perry said, adding that anyone in need of rescue should "keep your head down...we are on our way."
The Associated Press reported later this afternoon that the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, David Paulison, said that more than 120 people had been rescued in Galveston "and probably much more than that."
Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc said that there were no immediate reports of deaths, although 17 buildings had collapsed on Galveston Island and the downtown was flooded.
"The causeway into the island is in very bad shape," he told the AP. "It's draining slowly. There's just lots and lots and lots of debris in the drainage system."
Local hospitals reported a few injuries.
About 42 miles from the island, across Galveston Bay, officials in Chambers County, Texas, say that Oak Island and the city of Smith Point are under water.
"There's eight feet of water covering the community of Oak Island and I know there were some people that refused to leave that area," said Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia, who is in charge of emergency services for the county.
Sylvia said that at least one person in the county has died. A man was working on his metal roof, attempting to secure it from hurricane winds, when he drilled into a "hot wire" and was electrocuted.
The Associated Press is reporting at least three other deaths related to the storm. In Texas a woman died this morning when a tree fell on her home near Pinehurst in Montgomery County while a 19-year-old man was swept off a jetty near Corpus Christi and is presumed dead. In Louisiana, a 16-year-old boy died after falling off of a fishing boat today in Bayou Dularge, according to the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Sylvia said he believed that the city of Winnie was the hardest hit in Chambers County. A Winnie-based spokeswoman from the Chambers County Sherriff's Office said that the city was without power and phone service and had suffered flooding and extensive damage, with homes and barnes destroyed by falling trees and high winds.
Sylvia is based in Anahuac, the county seat of Chambers County. The city, he said, has seen storm surges of 18 to 20 feet.