Evacuees wade to safety, face death in Ike's wake

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - For four hours, roommates Robert Greenleaf and Thelma Stewart sloshed through crashing waves and deadly currents to escape Galveston. Greenleef clung to a neighbor's small boy; Stewart helped an elderly couple.

It took them four hours to go just four miles - and that was before the eye of Hurricane Ike had even reached the shore.

Only then, believing they faced almost certain death, did they take a felt-tip marker and write their names and Social Security numbers on their arms. Then they waited, and waited - taking shelter in a friend's brick home on higher ground.

Finally, a Blackhawk helicopter reached them and flew them to safety as they they saw their island city submerge. Now, they live in a warehouse-turned-shelter in San Antonio, wearing donated clothes and tagged as evacuees by white wristbands.

They have become the story behind the storm that battered the Texas coast these past days. By today, nearly 2,000 people had been saved from flooded streets and demolished homes in a Herculean search and rescue effort done by air, boat and on foot.

Hundreds arrived two full days after Hurricane Ike struck. Among them are at least eight packed buses from hard-hit Galveston Island.

Not everyone had ignored official pleas to leave before Ike hit. Greenleaf, who's 59, and the 30-year-old Stewart had planned to leave before the storm. But Ike unleashed its fury much sooner than even forecasters thought. Some, like these two friends, simply found themselves stuck.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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