Experts in hurricane risk and economics said if Ike had hit landfall 30 miles to the southwest of where it did – which would have put it centered on top of the ship channel – damages easily could have exceeded $100 billion.
Since Ike, billions more in petrochemical investment has poured into the Houston region, along with between 500,000 and 600,000 more people. Add all of that to the previous risk, and some see a recipe for disaster.
“There is a possibility, under the right storm, of killing a devastating number of people, and having a devastating effect on the economy,” said William Merrell, a Texas A&M University at Galveston marine scientist. “The more we look at it, the more appalling it is.”