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Crews put on standby for Hurricane Ike

By Scott Harvey

As Hurricane Ike pushes through the Gulf of Mexico, coastal areas in both Texas and Louisiana are making preparations.

Tuesday Texas Governor Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration for 88 Texas counties in preparation for Ike, including Hunt, Hopkins, Collin, Lamar and Kaufman Counties.

According to Commerce Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Harrison, both the Commerce Independent School District and Texas A&M University-Commerce have agreed to house any evacuees that may flee to the area.

Due to last week's situation with Hurricane Gustav, shelter areas at Commerce Middle School and Berry Hall on the A&M-Commerce campus are already situated with the necessary items to assist evacuees. That could mean that Commerce may see the first bulk of evacuees from the Gulf Coast.

The City is capable of housing between 250 and 300 potential evacuees. Last week, roughly 40 people from Louisiana stayed in those shelters, with more than 100 individuals staying in Commerce hotels. Also last week, the local chapter for the American Red Cross held a training session for anyone interested in volunteering during the crisis. It is unsure if another training session will be held prior to the arrival of evacuees.

According to Harrison, the response last week during Hurricane Gustav was handled in a very positive manner, and has served as a good learning experience as preparations are made this week.

As of Wednesday morning, Hurricane Ike's maximum sustained wind speeds were measured at 85 mph, with the strom expected to increase in intensity as it travels through the Gulf and makes its way toward the coast.

The National Hurricane Center says Ike could make landfall this weekend in Texas - possibly not far from Corpus Christi. But forecasters note that Ike could cross the Gulf and come ashore anywhere from Louisiana to Mexico. In addition to Governor Perry's disaster declaration for 88 Texas counties, 7,500 National Guard members have been put on standby.