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Published:September 12th, 2008 13:18 EST
Ike to Strike Tonight or Early Morning

Ike to Strike Tonight or Early Morning

By SOP newswire

Authorities say residents living along coastal areas of the southern U.S. state of Texas face "certain death" if they do not evacuate ahead of Hurricane Ike, which could make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.

Hundreds of thousands of people already have evacuated the coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico, following a mandatory order.  The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm could cause coastal flooding up to six meters above normal tide levels.

Forecasters say that as the storm moves inland, it could directly strike Houston, the nation`s fourth largest city.  Federal and local officials are preparing for what is likely to be a major disaster.

But the city`s residents have been told to stay where they are, to avoid a repeat of the chaotic evacuation that preceded Hurricane Rita in 2005.

President George Bush says he has spoken to the governor of Texas as well as federal officials, and he says he will be monitoring the situation carefully.

The National Hurricane Center says Ike is still a Category Two storm, one a scale of one-to-five, with maximum winds of 165 kilometers an hour, as it continues to travel over the Gulf of Mexico.  Forecasters warn it could strengthen into a major hurricane before hitting land.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for hundreds of kilometers from Louisiana to Texas.  Tropical storm warnings also have been issued for coastal areas of Mississippi and Alabama, and areas in Louisiana, including New Orleans.