Hurricane Ike's Heavy Winds and Rains Hamper Rescue Efforts

Driving rains and howling winds in battered Galveston, Texas, and elsewhere in the state continued to prevent authorities from getting an accurate read on the damage Hurricane Ike inflicted.

Ike was a Category 2 storm when in made landfall in the Galveston area, but has since been downgraded to a Category 1. Even though it weakened, state officials said that search and rescue operations had been hampered by the storm's threat throughout Texas.

Police were hopeful that the winds and rains would die down within a few hours so they could assess the destruction Ike caused.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's homeland security chief, Steve McCraw, said that officials in Orange County have been fielding pleas for help from residents trapped in their homes.

The Southeast Texas area experienced a significant storm surge — but it wasn't nearly as bad as many had feared.

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Hydrologist Benton McGee from the U.S. Geological Survey said the highest storm surge will probably remain 13.5 feet at Sabine Pass in Texas.

A 5-foot storm surge was recorded in the Houston area, he said. The surge in Galveston, where Ike made landfall, was about 11 feet.

Forecasters had predicted a surge of up to 25 feet. That would've been the highest in recorded history in Texas — above 1961's Hurricane Carla, which brought a 22-foot wall of water.

Ike's flooding was particularly intense in the cities of Orange, Bridge City, Rose City and Sabine Pass in addition to Galveston, according to McCraw.

In Orange County, Ike was causing damage that will probably be worse than Rita's wrath three years ago.

Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said Saturday that rescue teams in dump trucks were plowing through deep waters in a "gamble" to reach families trapped on roofs and inside attics.

Thibodeaux called the rescue efforts risky but said "we've got to try and do something." He said much of Bridge City and downtown Orange were virtually under water.

It will be "weeks and weeks" before power is restored to parts of the county, which was ravaged by Rita in 2005, Thibodeaux said.

Flooding was high as 8 feet in some areas.

In Galveston, rescue teams still could not reach at least 80 people stranded in high waters.

City officials said early Saturday there were no reports of deaths or injuries on the island, where Ike came ashore as a Category 2 storm just after 2 a.m.

Rescue crews will respond to dozens needing water rescues once winds drop below hurricane strength, city spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said. Police have begun patrolling the streets.

Cahill said some residents are calling from the upstairs of their homes because their first floor is flooded.

Those who decided to stay and weather the storm were being rescued by police and firefighters and taken to High Island, Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo of the sheriff's office told the Galveston County Daily News.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.