Cars and trucks streamed inland and chemical companies buttoned up their plants today as a gigantic Hurricane Ike took aim at the heart of the US refining industry and threatened to send a wall of water crashing toward Houston. Nearly 1 million people along the Texas coast were ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm, which was expected to strike late tomorrow or Saturday.
In a calculated risk aimed at avoiding total gridlock, authorities told most people in the nation's fourth-largest city to just hunker down. Ike was steering almost directly for Houston, where gleaming skyscrapers, the nation's biggest refinery, and NASA's Johnson Space Center lie in areas vulnerable to wind and floodwaters. Forecasters said the storm was likely to come ashore as a Category 3, with winds up to 130 mph.