Category II Hurricane Ike will not be the strongest storm ever, but many more people will feel its presence than from recent storms. Tropical Storm force winds are reaching out over 260 miles from Ike’s center; hurricane force winds are out 120 miles, making this one of the largest storms we have seen in years (for reference purposes: Hurricane Katrina’s hurricane force winds only extended 105 miles). At ten hours before landfall we are already seeing storm surges of 6 to 10 feet in the Texas and Louisiana coastal regions. By Ike’s landfall, they will reach 20 to 25 feet, with heavy waves on top of those. By tomorrow morning many areas will be under water, but that is not going to be the end of Ike.
Ike is forecast to quickly move northward across Texas, ultimately reaching and impacting the Midwest and Ohio Valley. Plan for widespread heavy rain and gusty winds as Ike’s remnants interact with a cold front and pushes quickly north and east across the nation’s mid-section.
The media will show the suffering inflicted on those unlucky enough to live in Ike’s path along the Texas coast; it will be all over the news and we will all commiserate with them. But the pain will be shared by many residents across the nation’s heartland as Ike or his remnants make their way inland.
Agriculture: Fields in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas are already saturated from Fay and Gustav; more rain will further delay harvesting of cotton, corn and soybeans which are already 1-2 weeks later than normal. Cotton bolls in this region are already opened, thus the additional wind and rain will damage the quality of the lint and make it difficult to harvest. Plan for increased apparel costs leading into next spring. On a more positive note; however, the increased soil moisture reserves in Oklahoma and Kansas will benefit the upcoming winter wheat crop.
Retail: Over the next two or three days, store traffic in softline retailers will significantly drop while increasing at retailers focusing on sales of home protection items such as pumps, tarps, chains saws, etc. from Texas to the Ohio Valley. The QSR industry will see a surge in store traffic and transactions where power has failed and residents need a quick meal. Water and ice is always in high demand in these situations and this will be no exception.
Energy: Hurricane Ike will cross the Gulf’s oil production region, affecting as much as 25 percent of the nation’s refinery capacity. Look for higher prices at the pump -- rumors of $4.15 or higher are already being heard. While the effects will not be long-lasting, the increased logistical costs will make all consumer goods, from water to automobiles, more expensive for several months to come.