for National Geographic News
"This one's going to be famous for a long time, if for no other reason than it hit Texas, which hadn't gotten a strike by a damaging hurricane in 25 years," said Jeff Masters, director of Weather Underground, a private commercial forecasting service.
Masters also noted that the cost of Ike's rampage along the Gulf Coast could reach U.S. $22 billion, which would make it the third costliest hurricane on record behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The center of Hurricane Ike made landfall around 3 a.m. EDT Saturday at Galveston. The storm's peak winds were clocked at 110 miles (177 kilometers) an hour, making it just short of a major Category 3 hurricane. (See photos of the hurricane's aftermath.)
But the storm's enormous size—nearly as large as the state of Texas—spread its destruction from eastern Louisiana to Texas.
The worst of Ike's damage was caused by its huge storm surge, a mound of water pushed ashore by the storm's winds. (Watch video of Ike's waves crash over buildings in Cuba.)
Because of Hurricane Ike's huge size, its storm surge of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) above normal tides was much bigger than a Category 2 hurricane usually would create.
When Hurricane Ike struck eastern Cuba last week, it was a very powerful Category 4 hurricane with peak winds of about 145 miles (233 kilometers) an hour.
But the storm's long trip across Cuba caused the hurricane to weaken and spread out.
Ike stayed large when it moved off the western tip of Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico, said James Franklin, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
"One of the issues with Ike was how long it took for the core of the hurricane to recover from its passage over Cuba, Franklin said. "At one time, it was forecast to be a Category 4 hurricane at landfall [in the U.S.].
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