As thousands of Texans flee the path of Hurricane Ike, the National Weather Service issued a dire warning to people living in small houses on Galveston Island that they faced "certain death" from flooding if they remained in their homes. Storm surges are expected to reach 16 feet, with winds topping out at 130 mph.
The danger from the storm extends northward, forecasters predicted, including hurricane-force winds, and flooding potential.
"It looks like we’re going to get a pretty good swath of hurricane winds right up I-45, spreading out a good 40 miles from the center," 11 News Meteorologist David Paul said. All that wind means fallen trees and power outages as well.
Meanwhile, the storm, expected to turn into a Category 3 with winds above 111 mph before it came ashore, has shut in 93% of Gulf of Mexico natural gas production, and 97% of Gulf oil production, according to published reports.
Oil production from the Gulf of Mexico is roughly 1.3 million barrels of oil per day, while natural gas production is 7 billion cubic feet per day. However, most of that production has been suspended until Ike is no longer a threat
"Without Ike crude prices would be below $100," one analyst said.
"Ike is headed into the heart of the refining industry," Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told Bloomberg .
The damage to oil and gas facilities is likely to come from flooding, and a lack of power
for an extended period of time, Bullock said.
Cheniere Energy Inc. is closing its Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas terminal and Creole Trail pipeline. Sabine can move up to 2.6 billion cubic feet per day of gas to Creole Trail and has 10 billion cubic feet of storage, according to Cheniere.
Ike has the potential to cost insurers $25 billion, ranking it behind Katrina as the second-most expensive storm in U.S. history, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu estimated.
Meanwhile, local electric wire utilities are preparing for the effects of Ike's winds and flooding, and advising customers of safety tips for those losing power. Utilities reminded customers not to use generators in enclosed spaces, including garages, because they produce carbon monoxide — a colorless, odorless gas that can cause serious injury or death. Generators should not be connected directly into a home's wiring system through the main circuit panel or fuse box without proper isolating equipment. Improper connections can create "backfeeding" — a dangerous condition that energizes the transformer box outside even though the power appears to be shut off.
ERCOT, which runs most of the state's electric grid, has also coordinated emergency procedures with generators and "schedulers," or traders who nominate amounts of power to be bought and sold. Depending on Ike's impact to operations of power plants or ERCOT itself, ERCOT may disrupt the normal market operation and rely on more "out of merit," or emergency, capacity to keep the grid stable in rapidly changing conditions.