Ike flirts with Texas

Hurricane Ike’s forecast path bent farther south Tuesday morning, with an early Saturday landfall predicted between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, Texas.

fishermen harbour

High surf battering the George Town coastline was not a problem for fishermen doing brisk business on the waterfront Tuesday morning. Fisherman Armando Wright, right, gets a helping hand from friends Nick Hyde and Hugh Keating in helping customer Charles Pars with his purchase of fresh fish. The high surf is from the passage of Hurricane Ike during Monday night. Photo: Jewel Levy

National Hurricane Center Senior Hurricane Specialist Lixion Avila warned that it’s still too early to pinpoint a landfall for what is still expected to be a dangerous, Category 3 hurricane in four days.

“It cannot be overemphasized that one should not focus on four and five day forecast points, since these can be subject to substantial errors,” Avila said in a discussion message issued with Tuesday’s early morning forecast. “Do not forget that (a) few days ago, the guidance unanimously had Ike near south Florida and then gradually shifted the danger toward western Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico.”

Hurricane Ike passed the Cayman Islands Monday night bringing with it wind, rain, lightning and thunder. The Hazard Management Cayman Islands’ Joint Communications Services issued the All Clear at 7am Tuesday, but winds continued to gust throughout the day and rainfall was sporadic.

The Slidell, Louisiana, office of the National Weather Service still warns of a chance of tropical storm conditions for St. Bernard, Plaquemines and lower Jefferson parishes Wednesday through Friday. Coastal waters could see seas building to 11 feet by Thursday night, accompanied by winds of 25 knots, with tropical storm force winds possible.

Ike remained a fairly weak Category 1 hurricane Tuesday morning, but contained the potential ingredients for intensification, with a small, well-defined eye and a large area of tropical storm force winds surrounding it.

“Once over the Gulf of Mexico in about 24 hours, Ike will have plenty of opportunity to strengthen, since the environment is conducive and the hurricane will likely move over several areas of high heat content,” Avila said.

Ike will turn more northwest as a trough of low pressure well north of it weakens a ridge of high pressure enough to pull it through the Gulf. The ridge will restrengthen, pushing Ike more towards the west, and requiring the forecast path to be moved south, he said.

The section of Texas coast, where Ike is now forecast to hit, has seen two major storms come ashore in the last 30 years. Hurricane Allen, in August 1980, was a Category 5 storm, with winds of 185 mph, while 1999’s Hurricane Bret was a Category 3, with 115 mph.

Damage and deaths in Texas from both storms were limited because of the remote location. That stretch of coastline is home to the King Ranch, more than 825,000 acres of cattle country divided into four spreads over two counties. Kleberg County is home to 31,549 people, according to the 2000 Census, while Kenedy County boasts a population of only 414.

The Houston Chronicle contributed to this report.

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