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September 11, 2008

Hurricane Information From Mayor Bill White

Hurricane Ike grew bigger and stronger in the last 24 hours, and the senior meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center told us that those along the Galveston Bay area and southeast Houston could experience storm surges of up to 15 feet. The meteorologists also told us that our region could experience heavy rain and hurricane winds of up to 100 miles per hour for a period as long as 12 hours. These strong winds would interfere with the ability of the bayous to drain water from our city.

I have recommended that employers not require some employees to show up to work on Friday, except when those employees perform essential functions. Those essential jobs can include the sale of food, pharmaceuticals, gasoline and diesel, and services in connection with healthcare or aviation.

City services, including garbage pick up, will not occur on Friday and Saturday. City employees who perform essential services, which are most City employees, should report to work or their station at home, as specified in the City's existing written policies.

Judge Emmett and I this morning recommended an evacuation today of eight zip codes within southeast Harris County. Several include parts of the City of Houston. Those are: 77586 (Zone A), 77058, 77059, 77062, 77507, 77520, 77546, 77571, and 77598 (Zone B). Those areas are at significant risk of damage from a storm surge.

If people live in unstable structures such as trailer homes which may not withstand heavy winds, we recommend that they also evacuate.

We have recommended that all schools be closed tomorrow. Some along coastal areas are not open today, and some may be considering early dismissal.

Please secure your outside belongings that could be tossed by heavy winds. Those would include garbage cans or barbeque pits or yard utensils.

People with special needs, such as those without transportation, who are within the mandatory storm evacuation areas should call 311.

Many thousands of emergency responders are mobilizing to assist in any needed emergency rescue, debris removal, and the restoration of electrical power.

Because heavy winds always result in power outages in our area, and downed trees and poles can block streets, please be considerate of your neighbors, particularly the elderly, disabled, and those who may have other special needs.

I have heard people on occasion talk about "hurricane fatigue." By this, some mean that they had prepared for a hurricane which did not hit. I would encourage you to please regularly check the City of Houston homepage for more information as you make plans.

In the case of two hurricanes in the last several years, the Houston area missed storms that turned away from us 36-72 hours from landfall. In this case, the storm has turned towards us, and is strengthening. Be prepared and keep your fellow Houstonians and other Texas residents in your prayers.

Bill White,