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Getting out of Galveston

As Hurricane Ike heads in from the Gulf of Mexico, the governor of Texas is telling people on Galveston Island that it is time to get out of town.

Most are likely to listen. Galveston, a charming Victorian seaside town, rebuilt itself a century ago after being destroyed by a major hurricane in 1900. That storm was so thorough in its destruction that no one is certain how many lives were lost, putting the human cost at anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 people.

The unnamed storm, believed to be a category 4, had winds estimated at about 135 mph, but it was  water, not wind, that did the most damage. The highest point in the city at the time was less than 9 feet above sea level. The storm surge was more than 15 feet.

Since then, Galveston has raised itself up, built sea walls, and weathered many other storms, including a direct hit by Hurricane Alicia in 1983. (Older residents will recall the traffic jams on I-45 as residents tried to evacuate.)

The Houston Chronicle is dedicating much of its Web site to the  storm, with a tracker on which you can watch its approach, and updated warnings for those in harm's way.

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