Tropical Storm Harvey keeps growing and is now forecast to become a “major hurricane” as it heads toward the Texas coast. Ryan Sartor (@ryansartor) has that story.
Hurricane Harvey was roaring toward Texas on Thursday with winds of 85 mph, a menacing storm that could produce deadly flooding for several days.
Harvey is now forecast to hit the Texas Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph late Friday or early Saturday. This would be the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 12 years — since Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. A major hurricane is one that’s a Category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.
A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for the 60,000 residents of San Patricio County, located just north of Corpus Christi.
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb and county officials may have stopped short of ordering a mandatory evacuation for the city, but they said residents who stay are risking their lives. “There will come a point during the storm where rescue operations will cease,” McComb said at a Thursday news conference. “Please don’t put our public safety officers at risk.”
McComb declined to say when that threshold would be reached, but indicated it will likely come before the worst of the storm.
As Harvey strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane center issued a hurricane warning for a 280-mile stretch of the Texas coast on Thursday and forecast up to 25 inches of rain over the next week.
Some 700,000 people live where a hurricane warning was in effect, roughly half of them in the Corpus Christi area.
Forecasters expected the storm system to be either slow-moving or possibility stationary for three to five days, which heightened concerns over heavy rainfall.
If this materializes, the National Weather Service in Houston said, some areas could see dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding.
“Since Harvey is forecast to stall, we expect 10-20 inches of rain over a large part of southern and eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana from Friday into early next week,” according to AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski.
CoreLogic, a company based in Irvine, Calif., that conducts global property analysis, estimates that almost 233,000 homes along the Texas coast are at risk due to Hurricane Harvey and that the potential reconstruction would total almost $40 billion.
The hurricane warning covers an area from Port Mansfield (near the Mexican border) to Sargent, which is 70 miles southwest of Galveston.
“Impacts from Harvey will be tremendous in terms of displacement of people, property and economic loss and travel and freight disruptions,” according to AccuWeather’s Marshall Moss.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the hurricane was “certainly something he (President Trump) is aware of.”
She said the lack of a permanent Homeland Security secretary to replace new Chief of Staff John Kelly would not inhibit the response. “There’s certainly someone at the helm. You have acting secretary Elaine Duke, who’s watching this closely and is involved in the process along with the FEMA director,” she said.
In Kelly, she said, there is “no better chief of staff for the president during the hurricane season.”
As the storm moved toward the mainland, Royal Dutch Shell, Anadarko Petroleum and Exxon Mobil were already evacuating workers and reducing production of soil and gas at some facilities.
The U.S. Gulf of Mexico is home to about 17% of American crude oil output and 5% of dry natural gas output, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. More than 45% of the nation’s oil refining capacity is along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
As of 5 p.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 305 miles southeast of Corpus Christi and was moving north-northwest at 10 mph.
The last hurricane to hit Texas was Ike in September 2008, which brought winds of 110 mph in the Galveston and Houston areas. Ike left damage of $22 billion.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the State Operations Center to raise its readiness level, making state resources available for possible rescue and recovery actions. The governor also pre-emptively declared a state of disaster for 30 counties on or near the coast to speed deployment of state resources to any affected areas.
The governor took to television to warn Texas to take the storm seriously.
“There’s little time in order for you to get out of harm’s way,” Abbott said.
Emergency officials have urged residents along the upper Texas coastline to move or prepare to move inland. Those in low-lying areas should seek higher ground, officials said.
On South Padre Island, people filled sandbags and loaded them into cars and vans Wednesday to take to protect exposed homes and businesses. Others in the forecast path of the storm sought out generators, plywood and other goods from hardware stores. Meanwhile, rice farmers in coastal Matagorda County moved quickly to harvest their crops.
Contributing: Julie Garcia and Matt Woolbright Corpus Christi Caller-Times; Gregory Korte, USA TODAY; Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY; Associated Press
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