Hurricane Ike Facts, Damage and Costs

Hurricane Ike Could Have Cost $100 Billion

Hurricane Ike Damage
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Hurricane Ike was a huge Category 2 hurricane when it hit the Texas coastline on September 13, 2008. Winds were 110 miles per hour, just 1 mph short of a category 3 storm. It created a wall of water over 13 feet high when it hit.

Ike was responsible for 112 deaths. A month after the storm hit, 157 people were still missing.

Ike damaged 11 states from Texas to Pennsylvania. Several had just been devastated by Hurricane Gustav two weeks earlier. Gustav cost $7.4 billion. It had been a Category 4 at its peak but calmed down to a Category 2 by landfall.

Facts

Ike was the seventh costliest hurricane to hit the United States. Total property damage to Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas was $36.9 billion when adjusted for inflation. 

Storm surges on Galveston Island, Texas were between 10 and 15 feet. The highest storm surge was 17.5 feet. Water completely submerged the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas. Ports from Corpus Christi to Lake Charles were closed for several days, keeping 150 ships waiting offshore. Around 2.6 million customers in Texas and Louisiana lost power.

Ike created 29 tornadoes, mostly in Louisiana and Arkansas.

Hurricane Ike hit the Inagua National Park in the Bahamas, home to 50,000 flamingoes.

Most of the birds survived the storm by hiding in mangroves or flying to other islands.

Timeline

Hurricane Ike began as a tropical storm on September 1, 2008.

  • Sept. 3 - Ike was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 144 miles per hour
  • Sept. 7 - The hurricane pummeled the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Bahamas. Later that day it hit Cuba as a Category 3 storm.
  • Sept. 13 - Ike hit Galveston Island, Texas
  • Sept. 14 - Now a tropical storm, Ike drenched St. Louis, Missouri
  • Sept. 15 - It moved across Southern Ontario and Quebec

Damage

Ike flooded Galveston's largest employer, the University of Texas Medical Center. As a result, 3,800 employees were let go.

The storm surge damaged cropland and pastures up to 14 miles inland. More than $350 million in timber was damaged. Cattle ranchers lost between 4,000 and 5,000 animals, totaling $13.3 million.

The commercial fishing industry, adding $25 million to the Texas economy, suffered significant losses. The tourism industry, worth $705 million, was also damaged.

How Ike's Damage Compares to Other Hurricanes

Two weeks before Ike, Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana. It was one of the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history. It was a Category 2, so it was less damaging than the others. Also, the levees held when it hit New Orleans. Although it only caused 20% of Ike’s destruction, the total U.S. property damage was $7.4 billion when adjusted for inflation. 

Hurricane Katrina was the most destructive U.S. hurricane. It hit New Orleans in 2005. This Category 3 storm killed 1,833 people and damaged $170 billion in property.

The second-worst hurricane was Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm. It was so damaging because it hit developed areas. It dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston. It cost Texas $131.3 billion in damages.

Hurricane Maria was the third-worst hurricane. It was a Category 4 storm that hit Puerto Rico and created $94.5 billion in damage.

In 2012, New York and New Jersey were hit by Hurricane Sandy. It was a 1,000-mile wide tropical storm that left $74.1 billion in damage.

Another hard hitter was the fifth-worst, Hurricane Irma. This Category 4 storm descended on Florida in 2017 and wrought $52.5 billion worth of damage. Hurricane Andrew was the sixth-worst. It hit Florida and Louisiana in 1992. The Category 5 storm cost $50.5 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Three Ways Global Warming Made Ike Worse

Climate change makes hurricanes worse in three ways: warmer air, rising sea levels, and stalled weather patterns.

  1. Warmer air holds more of the moisture that feeds hurricanes. Since 1880, global warming has increased the earth's temperature by 1.2. degrees Celsius. That’s faster than at any other time in the Earth’s history.
  2. Rising sea levels make flooding in coastal cities much worse. The average global sea level has risen 8.9 inches between 1880 and 2015.  
  3. Since 1949, hurricanes have slowed their pace by 10%. Global warming stalls weather patterns that are driven by the jet stream. That’s a river of wind high in the atmosphere that races from west to east at speeds up to 275 miles an hour. It undulates north and south as it goes. The jet stream is created by temperature contrasts between the Arctic and temperate zones. The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe. That slows down the jet stream and allows storms to hover.

Scientific models predict that by 2035, there will be more hurricanes in general. Of these, 11% will be of the Category 3, 4, and 5 classes. It predicted 32 super-extreme storms with winds above 190 miles per hour. 

Article Sources

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  7. FEMA. "Hurricane Ike Impact Report," Pages 28 - 33. Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.

  8. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “New Studies Increase Confidence in NASA's Measure of Earth's Temperature.” Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.

  9. NASA Earth Observatory. “If Earth Has Warmed and Cooled Throughout History, What Makes Scientists Think That Humans Are Causing Global Warming Now?” Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.

  10. Environmental Protection Agency. "Figure 1. Global Average Absolute Sea Level Change, 1880-2015." Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.

  11. Science Daily. "Hurricanes Are Slowing Down." Accessed Sept. 10, 2020.

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