HOUSTON, Texas - The storm forecasters say is as big as the state of Texas is slamming the Lone Star state tonight. Just shy of Category three status, Hurricane Ike is churning off the coast of Galveston.
The mayor of the city said those who didn't heed the advice to evacuate are sitting in the dark tonight. She told CNN that they are just waiting now for the storm to passtracking inland moving toward Houston threatening millions of people and the heart of America's oil industry.
Hundreds of thousands of homes are without power tonight in Texas and Louisiana and utility companies expect those numbers to grow and Ike moves further into Texas overnight.
Ike was centered about 55 miles southeast of Galveston, moving at 12 mph according to the National Weather Service. Keeping that speed it should hit land sometime in the pre-dawn hours.
Twenty-two crew members of a 584-foot freighter are having to ride out the storm aboard the ship. The Coast Guard attempted a rescue but the winds were too dangerous to continue the effort as the storm moved into the Texas Gulf Coast.
Earlier Friday Galveston's 17-foot high sea wall was overwhelmed by the 20 and 30 foot waves crashing the coast on the front side of the storm.
Click play to watch CBN News Reporter John Jessup's report, as seen on Newswatch, 4 p.m. EST. How dangerous is it for those in Galveston? Watch Accuweather's Joe Bastardi following this report.
While most residents in the low-lying coastal areas have heeded the evacuation warnings, those who have stayed are facing major flooding already. The U.S. Coast Guard has started airlifting some people from their homes.
Friday morning, the National Weather Service issued a strong warning to those in these regions saying that "anyone in low-lying areas could face certain death." if the tried to ride out the storm.
Authorities in Houston told people who weren't evacuating to make sure their homes were secure.
However, many Texas gulf coast residents, like Aretha May, aren't taking chances with Ike.
When Katrina hit in September 2005, she shipped out from New Orleans to Texas with her two daughters. Her sister and niece went missing and have never been found. With that in mind, Aretha's moving her family again.
But she is only one of 3,000 people in the city's evacuation assistance program. Many of those waiting in the parking lot of a crowded community center have no other means to leave.
Much like a lottery, each person eagerly waits to hear the assigned number that will put them on a bus to get out of harm's way.
This is the moment many of these people have been waiting for - some of them for hours.
They're lining up, crowding onto the buses and shipping out to take shelter in San Antonio by police escort.
The plan was set in motion immediately after the mandatory evacuation came down.
"I feel we had ample time to move everyone out," said Harish Krishnarao of Galveston Housing Authority.
Some complained the effort was disorganized, but as the buses rolled out, many evacuees were just happy to be headed to safety and away from Ike's bulls-eye.