I was shocked at how calm it was outside my hotel window at 2 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. The plan was for me to relieve our chief meteorologist at 3:30 so I had been napping in a room at the Best Western just two blocks from the KHOU 11 studio.
Another peek out the window revealed just a light breeze. I shower, shave, put on my neck tie and drink a cup of coffee. I head down to the lobby just in time for the outer eye wall to arrive in downtown Houston--and for all hell breaks loose.
A flash as a transformer blows a few blocks away. Winds are gusting to at least 50, maybe 60 mph. I don't know exactly as I run to my truck. It's old and on its third water pump, so I'm not so worried about it, which is a good thing because as I turn on to Dallas Street, a huge tree branch snaps and lands on my windshield.
It's September so the branches thick leaves cushion the blow, and to my surprise it doesn't crack. This is dangerous, things are flying, I'm scared. I turn on to Stanford, a block from KHOU, and a thought occurs that even though I'm so close: I may not make it in.
At landfall, Ike's maximum sustained winds are 110 mph on the coast. We would have gusts up to 80 mph as far north as Spring. As strong as those winds are, they are only Category 2 on the scale. However, because of the unusually large wind field, Ike's surge of water that is destroying 80-90 percent of the homes tonight in Gilchrist, Caplen and Crystal Beach is over 18 feet high in some spots. That's a surge only to be expected in a major Category 4 storm.
From this point on, hurricane wind speed and surge forecasts would be issued separately based on each storms unique characteristics.
The power will be out at my house for two weeks. The little Honda generator I bought years earlier in preparation for 2005's Hurricane Rita (which blessedly missed us!) is worth it's weight in gold now, as it powers my fridge and keeps the peace.