Hurricane Ike came ashore along the U.S. Gulf Coast on September 13, 2008, and the storm’s eye narrowly missed Galveston and Houston. Although the storm produced tremendous damage in both cities, perhaps the greatest damage was caused by the storm surge, which inundated the coastline near Galveston. The storm surge was greatest east of Galveston, reaching 4.6 meters (15 feet) above sea level. The area devastated by the storm surge includes coastline immediately east of Galveston Bay.
These images acquired by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Relfection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite show part of the area scoured by Hurricane Ike. The bottom image, acquired August 15, 2006, shows the region two years prior to Ike’s landfall. The top image, acquired September 28, 2008, shows the region about two weeks after the storm surge.
In these false-color images, red indicates vegetation, and the brighter the red, the more robust the vegetation. Blue indicates water, and, in the top image, the large beige-to-brown region indicates an area devastated by the storm. The ocean water’s combination of turbulence and high salt content might have been the cause of the vegetation loss in this area. Along the coast, numerous patches of deep blue suggest that standing water lingered after the storm surge’s retreat. Only a few isolated patches of robust vegetation survive, most conspicuously on High Island. This salt dome’s relatively high elevation helped it survive the worst of the storm’s damage. Immediately southwest of High Island, a storm-spawned lake lingers.
Besides destroyed vegetation, Hurricane Ike left water standing in the bottom floors of most homes, and a slippery, muddy sludge on most roadways. An estimated 40,000 residents defied evacuation orders. In the storm’s aftermath, those left in the Galveston area had to contend with no electricity, no functional plumbing, and little food or drinkable water.
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