Hurricane Ike: top U.S. weather story of 2008
The top U.S. weather story of 2008 was undoubtedly Hurricane Ike. The National Hurricane Center has released its summary of Ike, and here are some of the highlights:
Ike did $19.3 billion in damage to the U.S.--fourth costliest hurricane on record, behind Katrina, Andrew, and Wilma.
Ike did an additional $4.7 billion in damage after it became extratropical. Hurricane-force wind gusts were reported in Cincinnati, and 2.6 million people lost power in Ohio. The $2.2 billion in damage to Ohio rivaled the 1974 Xenia tornado as that state's costliest natural disaster ever. Ike's remnants also caused Kentucky's most widespread power outage in history (600,000 customers). (However, the 2009 ice storm in Kentucky surpassed this total!)
Figure 1. Ike's tremendous storm surge wiped most of the Bolivar Peninsula north of Galveston clean. Image credit: National Weather Service, Houston/Galveston Office.
Figure 2. Standard 20 foot high utility pole on the Bolivar Peninsula, with debris caught about 18 feet high. The pole stands near the intersection of Highways 87 and 124, near High Island, and is about 2 feet above sea level. The combined action of the storm surge and waves on top of the surge (wave run-up) deposited the debris at the top of this pole. Image credit: Ted Eubanks.
Ike produced a 15-20 foot high storm surge along the east side of Galveston Bay and along the Bolivar Peninsula just to the north of Galveston. This was the second highest storm surge recorded in Texas, behind the 22.1 foot surge of Hurricane Carla in 1961. It is likely that the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and and the 1915 Galveston hurricane had higher storm surges, though, since they were both Category 4 storms. Although Ike was a strong Category 2 hurricane at landfall, its storm surge was characteristic of a strong Category 3 hurricane.
Ike's 10-13 foot storm surge pushed 30 miles inland in Southwest Louisiana, reaching the town of Lake Charles. Isolated areas in Jefferson County, Texas, and Cameron Parish, Louisiana, had surge heights up to 17 ft. Ike's storm surge was 11 feet at Port Arthur, Texas,
Ike killed 20 people in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Another 34 people from Galveston and the hard-hit Bolivar Peninsula remain missing, according to the Laura Recovery Center, putting Ike's presumed U.S. death toll at 54. This makes Ike the 30th deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. An additional 64 indirect deaths occurred in Texas as a result of electrocution, carbon monoxide poisoning, and pre-existing medical complications. At least 28 direct and indirect deaths were reported in Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Michigan, and Pennsylvania from Ike's remnants. This makes the total death toll from Ike 146, due to direct and indirect deaths, with those people missing presumed dead.
Ike disrupted power to 7.5 million people--the highest ever for a hurricane (Hurricane Frances of 2004 and Hurricane Isabel of 2003 are in second place, with 6 million people affected). The "Superstorm" Blizzard of 1993 (10 million people affected) was the only weather-related disaster to knock out power to more people than Ike in the U.S. Texas and Louisiana had 2.6 million affected, Ohio 2.6 million, and Kentucky 600,000. Power outage figures are difficult to verify and collect, so if anyone has a better list of power outage figures from major weather disasters, I'd like to hear them: email@example.com.
The oil industry was hit hard, with ten offshore rigs destroyed, two large pipelines damaged, and fourteen refineries forced to close. Damage to the Ports of Galveston and Houston, as well as debris in Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel, kept those ports closed after the storm for several days, leaving almost 150 tankers, cargo vessels, and container ships waiting offshore.
Ike damaged Galveston's 14-17 foot high protective sea wall, exposing wooden pilings that support its older sections. The storm also washed away the 70-foot wide beach that helped protect the seawall. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is undertaking the seawall's first major repair job in its 105-year history. About $10 million will be spent repairing the seawall, and an additional $10 million will be spent dumping 400,000 cubic yards of sand to replenish the lost beach.
Outside the U.S.
Cuba suffered $3-$4 billion in damage, and 2.6 million people were forced to evacuate (23% of the population).
The Southeast Bahamas suffered $50-200 million in damage. Additional heavy damage occurred on the nearby Turks and Caicos Islands.
Haiti probably suffered the most from Ike, with 74 deaths and ruinous flooding.