(CBS/AP) Rescue crews canvassing neighborhoods with dump trucks, helicopters and airboats have saved nearly 2,000 residents along the Texas coast who ignored evacuation orders and stayed to face Hurricane Ike, authorities said Sunday.
More than 1.2 million people fled the Texas coast as Ike approached, but officials estimated as many as 140,000 defied evacuation orders and stayed to ride out the enormous Category 2 storm. Those who stayed were faced with flooding, flattened houses, strewn debris and downed power lines.
Heavy morning rains hampered rescue efforts in the hardest-hit areas of the Texas and Louisiana coasts, but crews worked around the clock to go door-to-door to find survivors of the massive storm. Those plucked from flooded homes were being loaded onto a fleet of buses, bound for shelters farther north.
Leaders in communities along the devastated coast warned it would be weeks, even months, before the towns were livable. Two-story homes had been flattened into pancakes, yachts were tossed like toys onto major roads, and utilities were cut off.
"Galveston has been hit hard. We have no power. We have no gas. We have no communications. We're not sure when any of that will be up and running," Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas said. "We want our citizens to stay where they are.
"Do not come back to Galveston," she said. "You cannot live here right now."
Eight deaths were blamed on the storm - five in Texas, two in Louisiana and one in Arkansas. Authorities said Sunday three people were found dead in Galveston, including one person found in a submerged vehicle near the airport. Another person died in Arkansas when a tree fell on his mobile home as the remnants swept through.
Authorities said at a news conference Sunday afternoon that 1,984 people had been rescued so far in Texas, including 394 by air.
President George W. Bush planned to travel to his home state of Texas on Tuesday to express sympathy and lend support to the storm's victims. He asked people who evacuated before the hurricane to listen to local authorities before trying to return home.
The storm paralyzed Houston, the fourth-largest U.S. city, as it moved inland. Houston officials imposed a weeklong curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. because most of the city was still without power. Darkened streetlights and pooled water on highways made it difficult to drive. Schools called off classes Monday, and the downtown business district was shuttered until further notice. The airports also were closed to flights.
"In the interest of safety, we're asking people to not be out in the streets in their vehicles or on foot," Chief Harold Hurtt said.
Residents of the tiny community of Seabrook, near the Johnson Space Center, were met by a roadblock as they tried to return home, and police officers standing in the rain turned them away. At times the line was six to 12 cars deep.
"It's gonna be a while," an officer shouted to one man as he made a U-turn. "Just listen to the news."
For information on how you can help victims of the storm, visit the following Web sites or call:
The Red Cross (800) RED-CROSS (English) or (800) 257-7575 (Spanish)
Feeding America (800) 771-2303
The storm also took a toll in Louisiana, where hundreds of homes were flooded and power outages worsened as the state struggles to recover from Hurricane Gustav which struck on Sept. 1.
In Hackberry, Lousiana, about 15 miles from the coast, workers moved a large shrimp boat out of a highway with a bulldozer, but the team had to stop because of strong currents in the floodwaters and difficulty in seeing the roadway.
"You can't see the sides of the road, and if you left the road, you'd just be swept away," National Guard spokeswoman Sgt. Rebekah Malone said. About 20 people had been evacuated by boat in Hackberry.
Hundreds of residents were wrapped around a high school in Galveston, some carrying pets, overstuffed duffel bags and medication as they waited to board a coach bus to a shelter. Some did not know where they were going, and even more did not know when they could return.
Ldyyan Jonjocque, 61, waited to board a bus while holding the leashes of her four Australian shepherd dogs. she said she had to leave two dogs behind in her home. She wept when she recounted officers having to rescue her in a dump truck.
"I have nowhere to go," she said.
On one side of the Galveston peninsula, two barges had broken loose and smashed into homes. Everything from red vinyl barstools to clay roof tiles littered the landscape. The second floor of some homes sat where the first had been before Ike's surge washed it out, and only the frames remained below the roofs of others, opening a clear view from front yard to back.
In Orange, Texas, Mayor Brown Claybar estimated about a third of the city of 19,000 people was flooded, from 6 inches (15 centimeters) of water to 6 feet (1,8 meters). He said about 375 people who stayed behind during the storm had begun to emerge, some needing food, water and medical care.
"These people got out with the wet shirts on their back," said Claybar. He said he did not know how many were still stranded, and did not know exactly how long it would take to pump water out of the city.
Ike was the first major storm to directly hit a major U.S. metro area since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.
Ike weakened to a tropical depression early Sunday morning, but was still packing winds up to 35 mph as it dumped rain over Arkansas and traveled across Missouri. Tornado warning sirens sounded Saturday in parts of Arkansas, and the storm downed trees and knocked out power to thousands there.
Rescue crews were still finding it difficult to get into some flooded neighborhoods, and were angered so many people defied evacuation orders. Though more than a million people did leave, by some estimates, as many as 140,000 stayed.
Sgt. Rodney Harrison and five other members of the Port Arthur Police Department drove a 2½-ton truck into the waters to search for victims in Sabine Pass near the Louisiana border Sunday morning. The waters were so intense and the roads so blocked, a gear shift broke off in the driver's hand.
"You have people that have families at home who put their lives on the line to come out here and save somebody that made a bad decision," he said. "I don't think that's right. I don't think that's fair to everybody."
Ike Evacuees Face Long Stays In Makeshift Shelters
Hurricane Ike's deadly surge has kept thousands of evacuees holed up in some cramped quarters in Texas - shelters, recreational vehicles, even a warehouse - as they face the prospect of returning to flood-ravaged neighborhoods left dark without electricity.
Others huddled in motels in the hopes that they had enough money to stay until it was safe to return - that is, if they had homes to return to.
"We don't know if it's floating through the Sabine Pass right now or not," said Clint Matthews, worried about his house near a canal in a low-lying area of Port Arthur, Texas. The ex-Marine and his wife hunkered down in a Tyler motel, and he said they would stay until their money ran out. But that could come sooner rather than later.
"Right now, this is all we've got," Nical said, holding out a cluster of cash.
The Red Cross said more than 20,000 people have stayed in 150 shelters in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas since Ike's approach. But the Red Cross reported problems setting up more shelters in the Houston area because some sites are without power or water - or cannot be reached due to debris blocking roads.
In Huntsville, about 65 miles north of Houston, a fourth shelter was set up Sunday. About 1,700 people took refuge in those shelters, the Red Cross said.
In San Antonio, about 140 miles inland, shelters held nearly 5,000 evacuees. More than 4,000 people rode out the storm in tents, RVs and campers, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
In Tyler, about 200 miles inland, 3,400 evacuees took temporary refuge and it became clear that some shelters would not suffice for the long term. City spokeswoman Susan Guthrie said officials were trying to figure out what to do with 1,600 people huddled inside what once served as a Wal-Mart warehouse.
Evacuee Terrance Bryant was staying at a church-turned-shelter in Tyler. But Bryant, who also fled Beaumont two weeks ago ahead of Hurricane Gustav, was not looking forward to a long stay.
"I can't do this for two weeks," said Bryant, 22, who was at the shelter with three siblings and his mother. "I just can't."
Despite the inconvenience, Bryant and many others found the shelters more desirable than the possibility of being stranded in their own homes without power, food and running water. Nicole Calderon, 23, said she and 10 of her family members would stay until it was safe to return to their La Porte home.
"We don't want to be stranded over there and not have a place to stay," Calderon said as she cradled her 22-month-old son, Jiovanie, in her arms.
Nearby, fellow evacuees and volunteers at the massive San Antonio shelter munched on hot dogs and canned fruit, their gaze fixed on the latest weather. "Here we have a place to sleep and eat. We're just going to wait and see what they tell us."
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