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Weaker Ike smacks E. Texas

As Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston under the cover of darkness, residents of coastal Texas hovered around a hotel television in Houston early today, looking for news that their towns had not been destroyed by the massive storm.

“They haven’t said anything about Galveston,” said Bertha Pena, 79, a lifelong resident of the island. She was surprised by reports that as many as 23,000 residents stayed. She said she didn’t want to take any chances. She lives in a high rise that would be immune from flooding but wind damage could be severe, especially on the upper floors.

“(It) shakes when a storm hits,” Pena said of her apartment building. “So far it’s held up. But now?”

Of course, Houston was also dead in the sights of the Category 2 hurricane after it made landfall at 2 a.m. in Galveston. Wind gusts blew out transformers in Houston, as they exploded in flashes of light. There are some estimates that more than two million residents of the greater Houston area may be without power.

In a north Houston neighborhood, Danny Miller, 8, ventured outside with his family and neighbors during a lull in the storm calmed what was a rough night.

Broken trees lined Rolla Street.

“It wasn’t so scary, well, except when they were falling,” he said.

Driving through downtown Houston Saturday morning wasn’t too tough in an SUV. Some streets were flooded with more than a foot of water and too dangerous to cross.

Brennan’s Restaurant, a popular steakhouse on Smith Street, was extensively damaged by a fire Friday night. The exterior didn’t look too bad but the interior damage could be clearly seen through a window.

Several skyscrapers, among them the Wedge International Building on Louisiana Avenue, had windows blown out and broken glass littered some streets.

Traffic lights were twisted and swinging in the wind. A few were lying in the street.

It was impossible not to notice a man at the intersection of Travis Street and Capitol Street at 9:45 a.m.

Wearing a T-shirt and jeans Steve said he had parked his car in a garage on Travis before Ike hit. The hurricane smashed more than 100 of the parking garage’s windows and the street was now covered in a layer of glass.

He said he had to get his car out. Defying the rain and wind, he got out a broom and started sweeping the street clearing it himself.

The morning after

In Galveston, city officials and first responders had their first look at the damage wreaked by Ike at daybreak. Hundreds of calls for rescue to 911 had to be ignored Friday night because conditions were too dangerous for emergency personnel to venture out.

Game wardens are attempting to reach Galveston to help with high-water rescues.

“We’re just now getting to leave toward the island,” said Capt. Eddie Tanuz of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “The storm has been too strong.”

Alicia Cahill, Galveston’s public information officer, checked in from the San Luis Family Resort, an old war bunker, where city officials and media are in shelter.

“Seawall is here ... No confirmed deaths .... City has not been able to leave and make assessment ... We are not deploying emergency personnel yet ... Conditions still unsafe ... Surf is receding ... Bay is rising,” she reported.

Cahill said all inside the San Luis, along the seawall, are safe. Some windows on the upper floors blew out, but the structure is intact as far as they know.

An unidentified 64-year-old woman called a Houston television station and said she had stayed in Galveston because she didn’t think the storm would be too bad. She is a widow, she said, and is frightened. The station’s meteorologists tried to calm here and tell her what to expect next.