One Million People Told to Leave Ahead of "Ike"

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HOUSTON - Cars and trucks streamed inland and chemical companies buttoned up their plants Thursday as a gigantic Hurricane Ike took aim at the heart of the U.S. refining industry and threatened to send a wall of water crashing toward Houston and Galveston.

Nearly 1 million people along the Texas coast were ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm, which was expected to strike late Friday or early Saturday. But in a calculated risk aimed at avoiding total gridlock, authorities told most people in Houston — the nation's fourth-largest city — to just hunker down.

The storm is so big, it could inflict a punishing blow even in those areas that do not get a direct hit. Forecasters warned that because of Ike's size and the state's shallow coastal waters, it could produce a surge, or wall of water, 20 feet high, and waves of perhaps 50 feet. It could also dump 10 inches or more of rain.