October 1, 2008

Ike’s Environmental Damage Feared Serious

Ecologists said they fear Hurricane Ike did extensive damage to Gulf Coast beaches and wildlife habitat that could take years to repair.

While the storm didn't produce any significant oil spills, it did knock over trees, inundate marshes with salt water and washed tons of debris into the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay.

"The extent of the damage won't be known for a while but it is possible we have had 20-30 years of damage at once," Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, told the Houston Chronicle.

One example was the stripping of mulberry trees on the Bolivar Peninsula. The Chronicle said the damage eliminated a major source of food for migrating birds that stop by to refuel on their way to South America.

The newspaper also said Ike closely followed the Path of Hurricane Carla, a 1961 storm blamed for beach erosion over the following 20 years.