Charity groups and meteorologists keeping an eye on Ike

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As Texas braces itself for the worst of Hurricane Ike, many people here in Utah are also keeping a close eye on the storm.

Charity groups are already in motion sending people and supplies to Texas. In the meantime, meteorologists from across the country and here in Utah agree Ike will bring some serious damage.

Hurricane Ike is beginning to pound the Texas coast. Houston Mayor Bill White said, "It's going to be a scary 36 hours."

High water, strong winds, mass evacuations, even rescue operations are already underway. Judge Ed Emmett, from Harris County, Texas, warned, "This really is a life or death matter. If you live in the evacuation zone, get out."

Charity groups and meteorologists keeping an eye on Ike

Dr. Edward Zipser, with the meteorology department at the University of Utah, said, "Not only is a much larger area going to get hurricane-force winds, but they're going to last a long time."

Zipser says wind velocity isn't the biggest concern with Hurricane Ike, it's the sheer size of the storm. At about 600 miles across and a possible storm surge 25 feet high, Ike could overwhelm much of the coastal and inland areas for a number of hours.

"So that's 15 hours of battering by let's say 80 mile-an-hour winds, which might be even more damaging to a home than one hour of 100 mile an hour winds," Zipser said.

Zipser has been chasing big storms since he was a kid. Earlier today he was on a conference call with his colleagues around the country who are collaborating on research, searching for better ways to forecast the intensity of hurricanes. In class, his graduate students have been analyzing Ike and will do a post-postmortem after it's all over.

He says forecasters do a pretty good job of following the paths of hurricanes, but forecasting intensity is still a problem, and that's the focus of his research right now. "The difference between evacuation and no evacuation is really the difference between knowing how strong the storm is and how much it's going to disrupt you."

That variable in how the intensity of a storm plays out is why some people still linger behind when they've been told to evacuate. Zipser admits people are over-warned, for now, but that will change in years to come.

Meanwhile, Utahns are doing their part. The LDS Humanitarian Center is preparing hygiene and cleaning kits. William Reynolds, manager of the LDS Humanitarian Center, said, "Without people's willingness to give and to serve, none of this would be available."

The Utah Red Cross already has 24 people in the Gulf Coast ready to help the estimated tens of thousands who failed to evacuate.

Jerry McCain, of Freeport, Texas, said, "I pray we're not going to be another New Orleans, but we'll see what happens."

The American Red Cross is in desperate need of donations for disaster relief. They're trying to raise $100 million by January 1.



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Ed Yeates and Whit Johnson


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