As many as 25,000 people remain in Galveston as Hurricane Ike makes a direct hit on the island. Among them are several media crews holed up in the 16-story San Luis Hotel. “All power to the hotel is gone â€” even the emergency lights in the stairwell,” writes CNN senior photographer Gregg Canes a little after midnight. “The hotel, we have been told is very safe, yet as I stand here typing by the light of my Blackberry the building itself is swaying in the rhythm with Ike.” As of 1:30 a.m., Ike is showing 110 mph sustained winds and 130 mph gusts as the eye covers the last few miles before reaching Galveston. And then there’s this little fact from the Hurricane Center: “STRONGER WINDS… AS MUCH AS 30 MPH HIGHER THAN AT THE SURFACE…COULD OCCUR ON HIGH RISE BUILDINGS.” There’s also this ominous news from Chron.com: many residents on Galveston are now calling for help, but nobody can respond. And there are hundreds of thousands of others in mandatory evacuation areas who refused to pack up and leave. I’m afraid the Weather Service and its “face certain death” warning may be right — this is shaping up to be a major loss of life.
Update: The storm surge was significantly less than expected. Whew.