Hurricane Gilbert aimed its 120-mph winds and torrential rains at the southern Texas coast Thursday, forcing thousands to flee inland from the monster storm that killed at least 34 people in a sweep across the Caribbean.
Hurricane warnings were posted Thursday from Port O'Connor on the middle Texas coast southwest to Brownsville and on south in Mexico to Tampico. The National Weather Service said the warnings may be extended northward if the hurricane makes an expected turn to the north.At 11 a.m. CDT, Gilbert's center was near latitude 22.2 north and longitude 92.3 west, or about 410 miles southeast of Brownsville. It was moving west-northwest at 15 mph, with sustained winds of 120 mph. The NWS said some strengthening was expected Thursday over the open water.
Civil defense authorities on vulnerable South Padre Island, located in the center of the warning area, ordered the island evacuated by 4 p.m. and said water and electricity to the island would be shut off at midnight.
"Most people are gone already," said Eduardo Campirano, city manager of the town of South Padre Island. "We haven't gotten any indications that there will be any idiots staying.
"A few of us (city officials) will stay to batten down the hatches and then we will be leaving. Hopefully, there will be nobody on the island when the storm hits. There's been good cooperation."
Campirano said evacuees from the island are being taken by bus to shelters in Rio Grande City, located about 100 miles inland along the Rio Grande. Most residents, however, made their own arrangements for transportation and accommodations.
Texas penal officials ordered about 4,000 convicts held in five prison units located in coastal areas to be moved to other prison units located inland. Prisoners in county jails along the southern coast, estimated at about 250, also were to moved to county jails farther inland.
Two men in Galveston were arrested Wednesday in separate incidents of price gouging for charging $15 to $20 for sheets of plywood normally costing $8 and in heavy demand for covering windows. Both men were jailed in lieu of $500 bond.