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FRIENDSWOOD, TX-As Hurricane Ike races across the Gulf of Mexico, developers are waiting to see if a just-completed 96,000-sf “green”-roof office complex can withstand torrential rainfall and high winds that the storm is anticipated to bring. As of deadline, the Category Two storm was forecast to come ashore between Freeport and Galveston, but the impact will ricochet all along the coast and surge inland.

Timothy Gregory, manager of business development for Transwestern Houston, says the 48,000-sf twins at 251 Medical Center Blvd. have double-pane glass windows designed to withstand Category Three winds and a roof made with nine to 10 inches of engineered soil and grass. The complex was developed by locally based Jacob White Construction Co.

Gregory, the project’s leasing agent, says the soil roofs, possibly the largest in the state, are expected to absorb rainfall and shunt it to collectors to recycle the water. “We’ll be kind of interested to see how this roof holds up with the significant winds forecast,” he says, adding the roof will be easy to replace if it’s torn off. “It’s dirt and plants.” The glass entryways, though, are being boarded up to protect the buildings from debris that is likely to be flying around during the storm.

To the south between Freeport and Galveston, more than boarding up is going on to secure the areas. Greg Flaniken, who runs a real estate brokerage company Greg Flaniken & Associates in Freeport, says a mandatory evacuation order was issued Wednesday for all of Brazoria and Galveston counties as well as parts of Harris County.

“A lot of our business is property management and a lot of our tenants called us, asking us what to do,” Flaniken tells GlobeSt.com. “I told them to board up, take personal items and important records and get out.” He says he’s headed toward Austin, where he has relatives.

Dow Chemical USA’s Texas operations, also in Freeport, are shut down with just a skeleton crew on hand as are the Phillips 66 Co., Amoco Chemical and Monsanto chemical plants. A spokeswoman with Dow Chemical says a mandatory evacuation for employees was in place.

“They have a skeleton crew, a ‘hurricane staff,’ people who are around to take care of certain items,” Flaniken adds. “They’re getting ready and preparing to ride out the storm.”

Flaniken, a long-time resident in Freeport, says Hurricane Ike is the first tropical storm to threaten Brazoria County since Tropical Storm Alicia drenched the region in 1983. “With Alicia, we had a lot of rain and little wind, but nothing terrible,” Flaniken says. “But with this one, people are better prepared. Most of the town is vacant.”

A spokesman with the National Weather Service’s southern region headquarters in Fort Worth says Tropical Storm Alicia was indeed the last time the Freeport area took a direct hit from a tropical system. Prior to that, it was Tropical Storm Delia on Sept. 4, 1973. “Five deaths were reported with that storm,” the spokesman adds, citing maximum sustained winds of 69 mph.

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