GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - Hurricane Ike is still hours from making landfall, but it's already sending waves crashing over seawalls along the Texas coast.
Forecasters expect Ike's eye to come ashore somewhere near Galveston late tonight or early tomorrow. Waves as tall as 15 feet are already hitting the city, and flooding is already being reported in other coastal towns along the Texas and Louisiana coast.
The National Weather Service has warned residents in smaller structures that they could "face certain death" if they ignore orders to evacuate.
Galveston is both a city and a barrier island, rising about 10 feet above sea level. It was the scene of the nation's deadliest hurricane. Six-thousand people were killed in the great storm of 1900.
If it stays on its projected path, Ike could head up the Houston ship channel and through Galveston Bay. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff calls that a nightmare scenario.
More Ike Coverage:
Call 211 to get information about:
-Emergency food, clothing, & shelter
Here's the latest on Hurricane Ike as the storm heads for the Galveston area:
-- State officials estimate 1.2 million Texans evacuated from their homes on their own.
Another 12,500 left with state assistance. There's no estimate yet on the number of medical special needs evacuees who were moved.
Nearly 80 shelters have been set up across Texas to accept evacuees.
-- Governor Rick Perry's office says "Texas Task Force Ike" is ready and waiting in San Antonio to be sent as needed for "search and rescue" after the storm arrives.
That task force includes more than 1,000 personnel and 500 vehicles. Up to 7,500 Texas National Guard members are activated to assist as needed.
Areas of concern for flooding are Galveston, West Galveston Bay area, Texas City, Seabrook, NASA Bay, LaPorte, Bolivar Peninsula and Baytown.
-- Perry's office says petrochemical plants in the Houston area remain a point of concern. State officials are in contact with industry officials to
monitor any damage.
-- There have been no "contraflow" lanes activated in the Houston area, in which highway lanes that are turned around to allow more outgoing traffic through.
-- Perry's office says the eye of the storm is expected to cross just west of Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. That could create a storm surge over 16 feet in Galveston Bay, Sabine Lake and Port Arthur.
Notable hurricanes to strike Texas since 1900
Notable hurricanes that have hit Texas since 1900, with where the storm hit, death totals and damages for Texas only. (Note: The National Weather Service did not start naming storms until the 1950s.)
- Sept. 24, 2005: Rita hits along Texas-Louisiana border; 110 deaths, most during the evacuation. Damages: $4.7 billion.
- Aug. 18, 1983: Alicia hits Galveston-Houston; 21 dead. Damages: $2 billion.
- Sept. 11, 1961: Carla hits Port O'Connor-Galveston-Houston; 34 dead. Damages: $300 million
- Sept. 4, 1933: Brownsville hit; 40 dead. Damages: $16.9 million.
- Aug. 13, 1932: Velasco (Freeport) hit; 40 dead. Damages: $7.5 million.
- Sept. 14, 1919: South of Corpus Christi hit; 284 dead. Damages: $20.3 million.
- Aug. 18, 1916: Corpus Christi hit; 20 dead. Damages: $1.6 million.
- Aug. 16, 1915: Galveston hit; 375 dead. Damages: More than $56 million, most to crops.
- July 21, 1909: Velasco (Freeport) hit; 41 dead. Damages: at least $2 million.
- Sept. 8, 1900: Galveston hit; more than 6,000 dead. Damages: $30 million to $40 million. Deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
Closures, evacuations in Texas
A look at some of the evacuations, updates and closures ordered by officials in Texas in advance of Hurricane Ike:
MANDATORY EVACUATIONS (with approximate population totals, where available):
-Brazoria County (288,000 people)
-Jefferson County (244,000)
-Orange County (84,000)
-Galveston Island (58,000)
-Matagorda County (37,000)
-The city of La Porte (34,200)
-Eastern portion of San Patricio County
-Low-lying areas of Harris County ("tens of thousands," according to county officials)
-Low-lying areas of Chambers County
-Goose Island and Mustang Island state parks
-The city of Kingsville has rescinded its voluntary evacuation for its
-About 5,000 prison inmates were relocated from areas threatened by the storm to facilities farther inland, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.
CLOSURES AND CANCELLATIONS:
-Friday's jury call for Harris County has been canceled, and the District Courts and the County Criminal Courts at Law will be closed Friday. It is expected that the District Clerk's Office will resume normal operations on Monday.
-Austin schools will close early Friday, beginning at noon.
-DPS Texas City Communications is evacuating and will be stationed at he DPS Regional Office in Houston.
-All Lone Star College campuses will be closed until Monday.
-The United States Attorney's offices in Houston, Victoria, and Corpus Christi, Texas, will be closed Friday.
- Last flight at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston at 2 p.m. Friday. Last flight at Hobby Airport in Houston at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
-NASA's Johnson Space Center and the International Space Station Flight Control Room at Mission Control in Houston was shut down Thursday. Station flight control continued through backup teams located near Austin, Texas and Huntsville, Ala.
-Several universities and colleges, including Sam Houston State University, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, all campuses in the Lone Star College system and Brazosport College.
-Lake Texana and Galveston Island state parks.
-Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry system, as of 11 p.m. Thursday.
-Corpus Christi, Danbury, Hitchcock, Wharton, Bay City, El Campo and Boling-Iago school districts.
-Houston school district athletic events and field trips scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Trips and events Thursday requiring travel outside Harris County.
-All Catholic schools and parishes in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston will be closed Friday.
-Sea Rim State Park has postponed planned youth alligator hunts until next weekend. The park remains closed to the public due to damage cause by Hurricane Rita.
-Houston meeting of the Advisory Committee on the Texas Democratic Party Convention/Caucus System will be rescheduled.
-Amtrak has temporarily suspended service to and from parts of Texas.
-The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has canceled visitation at its Hamilton Unit in Bryan and the Travis County State Jail in Austin.
-MHMRA of Harris County will be closed Friday, except for 24-hour and essential services. The NPC Emergency clinic located at 1502 Taub Loop will remain open.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)