By and  on September 12, 2008

Houston Retailers were closing Thursday and several hundred thousand people began an exodus as Hurricane Ike churned across the Gulf of Mexico and toward the Texas coastline.

Ike is forecast to make landfall between Galveston and Corpus Christi early Saturday as a Category 3 hurricane packing winds as high as 130 miles an hour.

The Houston Galleria, with more than 375 stores and restaurants, closed at 6 p.m. and will remain shut today and Saturday. The mall, owned by Simon Properties, includes Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Gucci, two Macy’s stores, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.

“Everyone I know is closed tomorrow for business, and a lot of people downtown closed this afternoon,” said Ashley Pearce, spokeswoman for the Galleria.

Mayor Bill White asked businesses to allow their workers to prepare to evacuate the fourth largest city in the U.S.
“This is a big storm,” Gov. Rick Perry said during a press conference Thursday. “I cannot overemphasize the danger that is facing us.”

Wal-Mart was among the chains that were shutting down operations in the region.

“We have five stores and one distribution center already closed and another 25 stores/clubs slated to close tonight,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogelman. “We’ll have more than 100 stores close in advance of the storm. An estimated 330 stores will receive tropical-storm force winds from south Texas to Fort Smith, Ark. More than 100 stores are expected to receive hurricane-force winds. Storm-surge projections are also something we are monitoring closely.”

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