The construction of a massive movable barrier, already being dubbed the "Ike Dike," could protect almost all of the Galveston-Bolivar Peninsula area from the ravages of future hurricanes and would also ensure normal traffic in the critically needed Houston Ship Channel, says a Texas A&M University at Galveston professor who has conducted extensive studies of the concept that the Dutch already have in place.
(Media-Newswire.com) - The construction of a massive movable barrier, already being dubbed the “Ike Dike,” could protect almost all of the Galveston-Bolivar Peninsula area from the ravages of future hurricanes and would also ensure normal traffic in the critically needed Houston Ship Channel, says a Texas A&M University at Galveston professor who has conducted extensive studies of the concept that the Dutch already have in place.
William Merrell, who holds the George P. Mitchell Chair and also directs the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores, says the proposed “Ike Dike” – named after the devastating hurricane that hit the area in September of 2008 -- would be the best solution to protect the fragile Galveston-area coastal region. It would carry a hefty price tag, somewhere around the $2-3 billion mark, but since Hurricane Ike caused an estimated $32 billion in damage to Houston and Galveston, the Ike Dike would more than pay for itself in the long run, probably after the first hurricane it encounters, he believes.
“If the Ike Dike had been installed when Ike hit, you would have had minimal damage, not the devastating damage that has been done to the Galveston area,” Merrell contends.
“To begin with, most of the damage from Ike was from storm surge, not wind damage. When Ike hit, it was only a Category 2 storm, but it had a Category 4 storm surge, in the 17- to 22-foot range in many areas. That’s why this part of Texas was severely crippled, and that’s exactly why the Ike Dike could lessen the damage.”
Merrell says the Ike Dike has a perfect model to follow – a system the Dutch installed in the 1990s called the Delta Works. Annually ravaged by fierce storms from the North Sea, The Netherlands took action and built two enormous “gates” that swing into place, with an 11-story storm wall that once locked, is flooded to sink to the bottom of the channel and the remaining surfaces atop keep out the ocean surge.
“It’s probably the best such system in the world,” Merrell says, “and you have to ask yourself, if the Dutch can do it, why can’t we? It’s really an engineering marvel to watch – those huge gates that swing into place are each about the size of the Eiffel Tower. The whole thing is one of the largest movable man-made structures ever built, but the key thing is, it’s the perfect solution for them, and it would be the perfect solution for the Galveston area, too.”
Another important component of the Ike Dike, Merrell adds, is to extend the Galveston seawall. While the 17-foot high seawall has done its job since being constructed after the devastating 1900 hurricane that hit the area and killed more than 6,000 people, massive development of the island has occurred since, and many portions, including the island’s popular West End, remain virtually unprotected. Much of the damage caused by Ike occurred near the West End.
As bad as the damage from Ike was, Merrell contends, it could have been much worse.
If the storm had been a Category 3 or 4 and had hit a few more miles to the west, the resulting winds from the east of the hurricane, which are always the strongest, could have caused widespread catastrophic damage, he explains.
“As it was, the numbers are still astounding: 81,000 homes, 42 schools, 13 hospitals, 5,000 businesses and almost 100,000 jobs were directly affected by just a 10-foot storm surge,” he notes. “Just think of what it could have been if Ike had been stronger and taken a different direction.”
Merrell says protecting the vital Houston Ship Channel has to be a top priority when hurricanes approach.
“People don’t realize that about 50 percent of the country’s petrochemicals and about 25 percent of its oil comes up from the Houston Ship Channel. If traffic there is affected, it becomes truly a national problem, not just a Texas problem,” he says.
Construction of the Ike Dike would take about 10 years to complete, Merrell points out, meaning the time to act is now.
“The bottom line is this: We can prevent the kind of damage that Ike left behind. We have the technology to do it, the manpower, the resources, everything. Ike killed 102 people and 34 are still missing, and we can prevent future deaths. There are about 2 million people in the area around Galveston Bay and they were directly affected by Ike. The seawall was the correct response after the 1900 hurricane, and the Ike Dike is the correct response today. We need to build it, and we need to do it right now.”
Contact: William Merrell at ( 409 ) 740-4732 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Keith Randall at ( 979 ) 845-4644 or email at email@example.com
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