11 September 2008 16:34 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Houston, the US petrochemical hub, could begin feeling the effects of Hurricane Ike in 12 hours, as the massive storm has tropical-storm-force winds extending more than 200 miles (322km) from its centre, a meteorologist said on Thursday.
"People are going to be amazed," said Jill Hasling, president of Weather Research Center. Her company develops storm forecasts for offshore drilling companies.
"We are going to start feeling the impacts late tonight and early tomorrow morning because this is such a large storm," she said. The strength of those initial winds could be at least 39 miles/hour.
Hurricane-strength winds are extending more than 100 miles away from Ike's centre, Hasling said. In fact, Hurricane Ike is so large, it will cause widespread damage regardless of exactly where it makes landfall.
As of 10:00 hours Houston time (15:00 GMT), Ike was about 470 miles east-southeast of Galveston, Texas, according to the National Hurricane Center. Ike could make landfall by late Friday or early Saturday.
Ike had winds of 100 miles/hour, making it a category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the centre said. Wind speeds will likely exceed 111 miles/hour before Ike makes landfall, making it a major hurricane.
Hasling said for such a storm as Ike, it is more relevant to determine where its high winds would hit.
However, making such determinations was difficult for Ike, she said. The hurricane was being influenced by several different weather systems.
These systems could change Ike's strength or direction, she said.
As it is, meteorologists expect Ike to turn north at some point, she said. The timing of this turn depends on when Ike meets another weather system that is moving from the western US.
Hasling said, "This isn't an easy storm."
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