What's Up With The Hurricane Ike Coverage

McJ's picture

I had originally meant this to be a forum post (where it most likely belongs) but it was so long I decided to post it to my blog. smiling

Has anyone else noticed the lack of post Ike coverage on the CMSM?

My daughter and I watched much of the CNN coverage of the approach and landing of Hurricane Ike last Friday night/Saturday morning. On Saturday when it was reported that a military task force (that had been pre-positioned before the hurricane hit) was headed to the Houston area I half joked that once they got there the press coverage would be shut down. We kept checking sporadically during the rest of the weekend and into Monday to see the extent of the damage but there was very little coverage. Are we missing coverage of Ike up here in Canada? CNN programming for the remainder of the weekend was revolving reruns of the Sarah Palin/Joe Biden biographies plus a couple of other ridiculous political yak fests by assorted pundits. They had probably 10 - 20 reporters positioned around the hardest hit areas on Friday and after Saturday morning all they had to broadcast for the rest of the weekend was reruns of the previous week's presidential news?
Last night I did a bit of checking for internet coverage. There are lots and lots of stories in the print media but most that I read seemed to be of the boiler plate variety listing statistics and paraphrasing the same points over and over again. There are a handful of survivor stories with more trickling in today. A commenter on one of the articles I read (sorry can't find the link again sad ) was convinced there was a media blackout on post Ike coverage. She said that her sister's house was under 20 feet of water yet the news was only reporting a surge of 6 -12 feet in the area where it was situated.

From Editor and Publisher :
Galveston Officials Restrict Media Access After Ike
By Joe Strupp
Published: September 16, 2008 11:05 AM ET

The Galveston County (Texas) Daily News, which has seen delivery delays, Web site disruptions, and even the loss of its roof from Hurricane Ike, reports that city officials have now directed city employees not to speak to the press.
...Daily News reporters who tried to speak to city employees at rescue sites were denied information and told no one was authorized to talk to them except for the mayor and city manager," the paper reported.
...The Daily News also stated that "all reporters who were staying at the city's emergency operations center, stationed at the San Luis Hotel, were asked to leave Monday.

Some things that are bothering me about this coverage (and lack of it):

- Official death toll:
Friday night and Saturday morning it was reported that emergency officials were receiving thousands and thousands of calls. According to subsequent reports there have been somewhere around 2000 rescues. This is a lot, however officials estimate that up to 20,000 people stayed behind in Galveston (some reporting as many as 40,000) and as many as 140,00 stayed in mandatory evacuation areas. The highest death toll I have seen to date is 40 with most of those being from outside the Houston area. Where are these people? What happened to them? Some are making their way into emergency facilities but the numbers don't seem to correspond to the large numbers that reportedly stayed behind.

- People not leaving the mandatory evacuation areas:
Most of the talk in the comments section of reports I have read are railing against the stupidity of the people that stayed behind in the mandatory evacuation areas. Many people are suggesting they be fined and some are calling on officials to arrest parents for child endangerment. I am wondering why so many stayed behind. I don't think we are hearing the real story. It doesn't make sense why these people didn't leave. Yes, some were just too stubborn or stupid to leave or didn't have the money or wanted to protect their belongings, but that many of them?
I have read stories where the evacuation wasn't as smooth and organized as the news has lead us to believe.
Houston residents were advised to hunker down and ride out the storm at home. Were some areas flooded where residents were told to stay at home?
Residents on the Bolivar Pennisula tried to leave but were caught by early flood waters on Friday morning (4ft covering the highway) and couldn't get out. They called for help numerous times but didn't get any. See here.
Houston is home to a large population of illegal alliens. Although there was supposedly an amnesty for illegals how many of them stayed because they didn't believe the officials? I read where people that were evacuated during Gustav where getting arrested when they had their id's checked.

Ike evacuation: 'Hurricane amnesty' to help Gulf's illegal immigrants
But increased raids this past year mean that many undocumented may choose to stay in the storm zone.
By Patrik Jonsson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the September 12, 2008 edition

- Coverage of damage to oil refineries and the price of gas:
Saturday morning our gas prices increased 11 cents a litre (39 cents a gallon). The is the largest single iincrease I can remember. Gas in our area now costs $1.49 a litre ($5.29 a gallon) which I notice is much higher than prices in the Houston area. The price of oil the same day was dropping to somewhere around $100 a barrel. Besides the fact that my knee jerk reaction is to be totally pissed about paying these prices when I live in a country that is swimming in natural resources including oil, natural gas, water (for hydro electricity), coal etc., I am wondering why this increase is so high after Ike. How much damage was done to the refineries and platforms? Was it catastrophic? I don't know because there just hasn't been a lot of coverage of it. I did read reports about four oil platforms spotted floating around the Gulf of Mexico and saw some pictures of flooded pumps at oil refineries. Curiously, my brother works for a Chevron oil refinery and he has been telling us all summer that the top management keeps whining they are losing money in the refining end of the business - (but making obscene profits in all other areas of the business smiling ). H-m-m-m??

- Storm surge forecast to be 20 ft. but reported after hurricane to have been only 6 - 12 ft.:
I really think there is something fishy going on here. As I noted above according to eye witness accounts the Bolivar Pennisula had 4 ft of water on the road Friday morning (many hours before the outer bands of the hurricane even hit the coast) and there was already flooding in many of the other coastal areas. There are accounts of houses being under 20 ft of water and flooding from the storm surge reached from the Florida coast to Corpus Christi and beyond. What happened? Are we supposed to believe that the slight jog Ike took just before it struck the coast was the reason the storm surge wasn't as bad as forescast?

- Hazardous Chemicals:
I don't have the link but I read one commenter's account that a hazardous chemical (biological?) plant in the greater Houston area was under water and officials didn't want that information getting out. Did anyone else hear anything about this?

- Task Force Ike:
Finally, task force Ike moved into the greater Houston area Saturday morning. Since that time there has been only limited "talking point" type coverage of the damage done. What's happening down there?

(Also, I found it interesting that the city of Houston had cleaned up all the glass debris in the downtown area by Saturday afternoon - pre-planning and efficiency perhaps or maybe 'out of sight, out of mind'?)


20,000 people chose to stay behind in Galveston, of those 40% live in the West End - which is outside the seawall. That's 8000 people. There are little to no reports of the damage in the west end. The Galveston mayor referred to the damage to the West End as devastating.
(Correction: 18/09/08 - 40% of the people do not live in the West End. It represents 40% of the tax base. Many of the homes there are vacation homes [same on Bolivar Pennisula]. So, most likely there were not a lot people that stayed behind in those areas. Most of those estimated 20,000 people likely were situated in the areas behind the seawall that sustained the least amount of damage and flooding.)

This thread at KHOU.com a local Houston station is reporting that FEMA is blocking cell phone coverage in the Galveston area. There are lots of other interesting comments and discussions going on there. People are also posting asking for info on relatives they can't contact.

From Above Top Secret:

Typical of the behavior exhibited during Katrina, it now appears we have a real-time cover-up playing out for the West End of Galveston Island.

I have been concerned about the west end of the island from since before the hurricane made landfall because of the lack of seawall and the fact that the communities in that area are virtually sitting at sea level. Certain areas of the west end of the island are so narrow between Gulf and bay that if you're a really good golf player, you could make a water shot from one side to the other.

I have been following the damage report forums set up by KHOU (Houston News Channel) to try and find out the state of the west end, because I started getting a rather hinky feeling yesterday when NO reports of the west end came out by the major OR local news stations. AND, when a helicopter was finally sent up for aerial footage by one local news source, IT SHOWED NO FOOTAGE OF THE WEST END.

In fact, the Coast Guard has video on their site of post-hurricane fly overs and they do NOT show the west end communities.

...Even the displaced home owners of the West end are in the dark. Last evening it was posted that Houston ABC affiliate Channel 13 (KTRK I believe) reported that "police had banned media coverage of the west end of the island". That was the first disturbing sign.

Then, a resident who is relocated posted that her husband is in the Coast Guard and even HE couldn't get a straight story on the state of the west end.

It has just been reported on Houston local news stations that "FEMA has taken over the cell phone service for the Galveston area".

I fear that portions of the west end of the island are completely gone. And I fear FEMA and LE (Law Enforcement) are trying to keep this from the public until the waters recede.

...Just so anyone unfamiliar with the island can understand the region in question, please see this Galveston Island map (pdf):


The blow-up at the bottom is the area not covered yet. Basically everything west of the seawall is in question. There is one report on Pirate's Beach, but aside from that - unknown.

And then there is this:

According to officials at the UTMB, the University of Terror Mongering near Baytown, emergency power has been restored to its BSL-4 terror labs following a direct hit by the Category Two Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island...

and this

Category: Bioterrorism • Priorities
Posted on: September 13, 2008 7:16 AM, by revere
Why would any sane person put a Level 4 biodefense lab in Galveston?
..it seems a bit odd (I understate) that the geniuses at the Department of Homeland Security and NIH decided that Galveston was a good place for one of the first two high containment biodefense laboratories to be built after 9/11 (the other is situated in a densely populated neighborhood in Boston, another sterling choice). But put in Galveston they did and now it's almost built.


admin's picture

Something is fishy

Thanks for the coverage of this McJ - I hadn't thought too much about it, and the train collision in my local area took most of my news-worthy attention over the weekend. A friend of a friend was on the train behind (by 20 minutes or so) the one that crashed, apparently it was announced on her train that there had been a crash and so they wouldn't be going to Chatsworth - she called my friend and he told me about the crash before it even hit the Internet news sites. Quite a bit of coverage of the whole thing since. Disturbing stuff.

But now that you mention it, yes. Amazingly little coverage and when I do read an Ike article, it's generally the same recycled news bits from Saturday with maybe one new fact. I wonder if this is a repercussion of the negative impression generated during all the Katrina coverage? Are the major new media just playing politics - they don't want to make the governments look worse in a major election cycle?

I've got half a mind to drive over to Houston, hop on a rowboat and save some abandoned pets while generating some first-hand reporting. Unfortunately I need my job more than it needs me right now or I would more seriously contemplate doing it sad


Coverage of Ike

I don't think much about this. I feel ya just have to realize that weather has become a political football like every other thing in this country. Weathercasters don't deal in facts any more because facts (if you tell the truth) may not produce the desired result or (if you lie) are an inconvenience and an embarrassment.

The powers that be were afraid of another Katrina disaster this close to a national election, so forecasters exaggerated when they warned of Ike's size and power because they wanted people to evacuate. Now that the storm is over and it wasn't nearly as bad as they said, they've shut up and are hoping people won't remember all the lies they told before the storm's arrival.


"It may be thought that I am prejudiced. Perhaps I am. I would be ashamed of myself if I were not." Mark Twain

newjesustimes's picture

"Now that the storm is over

"Now that the storm is over and it wasn't nearly as bad as they said"

I think that remains to be seen. There may yet be thousands of dead as there were after the hurricane that wiped out Galveston in 1900.
I've read that entire communities on Bolivar peninsula have been washed away, as in hundreds of homes = gone. Residents of those homes who decided to stay and tough it out? Prospects are looking dim. I don't think anybody even knows who's missing yet.

Here's a site I just found, don't know anything about it but the information on the page is very topical to this discussion of Ike & the news blackout: http://www.worldproutassembly.org/archives/2008/09/media_blackout.html

"I continue to get reports from all corners that there is a high body count. Not to be macabre or disrespectful, but there are leaks coming from Austin, Galveston and Houston that there are bodies floating around Galveston's West End and Bolivar. "

"Authorities are still in search-and-rescue mode. About 24,000 people didn't heed evacuation orders. Rescuers are leaving the dead in houses and moving on to look for the living.

"Unlike in New Orleans after Katrina, they are not spray painting a giant "X" on a building when they find bodies. Instead, they are putting discrete stickers on the buildings. On the one hand, government officials seem to be trying to keep the media from portraying the true extent of the disaster, but on the other hand officers are tipping off reporters about deaths and rescues."

Here's another more reputable source; doesn't make it sound like the forecasters were lying:

"The water filled up so fast, everyone tried to go to higher ground, but it seemed the higher you got, the higher the water went," said Celestine as tears ran down her face.

"It was hell. We climbed on to the table, deep freezers, anything we could get on and then we prayed."

newjesustimes's picture

1900 Galveston Hurricane

Read the first-person accounts found herein; after reading the above I'd imagine it's not so dissimilar there nowadays:

McJ's picture

"Forecasters exaggerated"

I agree with NJT that it remains to be seen. I found this site with pictures (mostly of Bolivar Pennisula and some of Texas City) http://jakeabby.com/cb/. I did a google search of the population of that area and there are apparently around 30,000 people that live there during the peak of the summer vacation season. It looks like the place is pretty much wiped out. You certainly can see that anyone that stayed there was risking "certain death' so I don't think it was an exaggeration by the forecasters. I can't imagine that many would have survived that devastation.

"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v

newjesustimes's picture

yeah sounds really bad; &

yeah sounds really bad; & reminiscent of 1900

Home designer and builder Bobby Anderson limped off the peninsula late Monday in a pickup battered by the storm, saying Ike swept out to sea a woman who had clung with him to a building's rafters. When asked to describe their ordeal, he refused.

"I'd really rather not," Anderson said.


It's a safe bet the missing woman described is not included in the "47 deaths reported". nor countless others. Just tragic, but at least the residents did get a lot more advance warning than the folks in 1900.

McJ's picture


Thanks for the links NJT. Those stories on 1900 Galveston hurricane were really interesting.
I noticed on the one site you linked to, a post on the $85 billion government bailout of AIG. http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=794913
While reading some of the comments today on the post hurricane Ike devastation and the media blackouts, some people were suggesting the blackouts had something to do with the imminent collapse of AIG, the world's largest insurer with US $1 trillion in assets. There were suggesting that the PTB's didn't want the public to know the extent of the damage because the insurance companies were not going to be able to cover the losses. I know nothing about the insurance game so I don't know how much truth there would be in that idea.
"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v

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