for National Geographic News
Hurricane Ike's expected massive storm surge and flooding have prompted National Weather Service officials to issue a rare and chilling "certain death" warning as the storm barrels toward the Texas coast tonight.
(See Hurricane Ike photos.)
"We rarely issue this warning unless there is a severe, impending catastrophe," said Chris Sisco, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "It's very serious."
The warning reads: "Neighborhoods that are affected by the storm surge and possibly entire coastal communities will be inundated during the period of peak storm tide.
"Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single-family, one- or two-story homes may face certain death. Widespread and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere."
Sisco said Ike's storm surge—a mound of water created by a hurricane's winds—could reach 20 feet (6.1 meters) around the center of the storm.
And the surge could be "funneled" as it is driven inland into some bays and rivers, causing the surge to rise to as much as 25 feet (7.6 meters) in some places, he said.
(Watch a video of a hurricane's storm surge.)
The National Weather Service advisory also warned that in some places, floodwaters could be as much as 9 feet (2.7 meters) deep more than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) inland.
The center of Hurricane Ike is expected to make landfall late Friday night or early Saturday morning near Galveston, Texas, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the metropolitan city of Houston.
As of Friday morning, Ike was a Category 2 hurricane with peak winds of about 105 miles (169 kilometers) an hour.
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