After Tropical Storm Harvey officially transformed into a hurricane on Thursday thanks to a favorable environment in the Gulf of Mexico, cities and towns along Texas’s Gulf Coast are evacuating as state and national officials warn of life-threatening flooding and storm surges.
By early Thursday, when Tropical Storm Harvey was more than 300 miles off the southern coast of Texas, the National Hurricane Center indicated that winds were already swirling at about 60 mph. Later in the day, though, Air Force Hurricane Hunter planes had confirmed that the storm had strengthened into a hurricane, with 80 mph winds bearing down on Texas.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Port Mansfield in far southern Texas to Matagorda, which is about 100 miles southwest of Houston, meaning that the brunt of Hurricane Harvey is likely to affect about 300 miles of the Texas coastline, including Corpus Christi and Port Aransas.
Worse, officials are concerned that the storm will not budge once it is on land, potentially inundating parts of the state with more rainfall than has been seen in decades.
“When it does make landfall, it is expected to … not move for several days, which is why we expect the rainfall to be the most devastating,” ABC News meteorologist Melissa Griffin said. “Some spots could receive over 30 inches.”
The storm’s surge could be up to 10-feet tall, a potentially life-threatening phenomenon for anyone who remains near the coast, while waves could rise to as high as 20 feet. Most affected areas can expect to receive anywhere from 10 to 20 inches of rain – with some areas even reaching 30 inches – while flash flooding and gusts of up to 115 mph are possible.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered an elevated level of emergency readiness and declared a state of disaster for 30 counties ahead of the storm.
“As the State Operations Center increases its readiness levels, I also encourage Texans in the storm’s path to make their own emergency preparations, heed warnings from local officials, and avoid high water areas,” he said Wednesday morning.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending a massive amount of supplies to Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio from its warehouse in Fort Worth, with the agency working alongside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore power to critical facilities if necessary.