Harvey declared hurricane; Texas braces for Category 2 or 3 storm

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Harvey would be the first major hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 which left damages of $22 billion.

Staff and wire reports

The U.S. National Hurricane Center has announced that Tropical Storm Harvey has been declared a hurricane following data gathered by an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft.

The Hurricane Hunter recorded maximum sustained winds of 80 mph with the hurricane located approximately 340 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Harvey is moving slowly at 10 mph in a north-northwest direction as of the latest Hurricane Center report at noon CDT. The Weather Channel noted in a report that the current eye of the hurricane is 20 miles wide.

Accuweather is reporting that Harvey will make landfall along the Texas coast on Friday night as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane. Harvey would be the first major hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 brought winds of 110 mph to the Galveston and Houston areas and left damages of $22 billion.

Forecasters said a “life-threatening” storm surge along with rains and wind were likely as Harvey was intensifying faster than previously forecast. A major hurricane means winds greater than 110 mph.

Once Harvey makes landfall, it’s possible the storm then could just stall inland for as many as three days, exasperating the threat of flooding brought by tropical downpours, the Hurricane Center said. Some forecasts indicated rain totals over several days extending into next week could exceed 24 inches.

Wire reports had already announced that a state of disaster was declared for 30 counties in Texas in advance of Harvey by Gov. Greg Abbott.

“Impacts from Harvey will be tremendous in terms of displacement of people, property and economic loss and travel and freight disruptions,” according to AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss.

According to The Weather Channel, “The NHC has also issued its first ever public storm surge warning, which includes a swath of the Texas coast from Port Mansfield to San Luis Pass Island. This means a life-threatening storm surge is expected in the warned area in the next 36 hours. This warning does not include Galveston Bay.”

“Harvey is looking like it’s going to just meander around the area,” National Weather Service meteorologist Penny Zabel said. “It’s going to hang out for a few days, and that’s why we’re looking at such high rainfall amounts.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the State Operations Center to elevate its readiness level, making state resources available for possible rescue and recovery actions. Abbott also pre-emptively declared a state of disaster for 30 counties on or near the coast, to speed deployment of state resources to any areas affected.

Nearly all of the state’s 367-mile (591 kilometer) coast was under a hurricane or tropical storm warning or watch as of Thursday.

ORIGINAL STORY THURSDAY MORNING

Long lines extended from grocery stores along the Texas Gulf Coast early Thursday as residents braced for a slow-moving tropical storm that forecasters say could drop as much as 20 inches of rain.

A hurricane warning was issued for most of the central and southern Texas coast Thursday morning, from Port Mansfield to Matagorda, as Tropical Storm Harvey regained strength while drifting into the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday as either a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane.

“Harvey is looking like it’s going to just meander around the area,” National Weather Service meteorologist Penny Zabel said Thursday. “It’s going to hang out for a few days, and that’s why we’re looking at such high rainfall amounts.”

Zabel noted that it’s been 14 years since a hurricane made landfall along the state’s southern coast. She said 10 to 15 inches of rain could fall from Friday through Tuesday, with higher amounts in some areas.

An Accuweather report Thursday morning noted that Harvey will have significant impact in terms of dangerous surf, beach erosion, coastal flooding and strong winds. However, the budding hurricane is likely to be remembered for tremendous rainfall and flooding that lasted for days.

“Impacts from Harvey will be tremendous in terms of displacement of people, property and economic loss and travel and freight disruptions,” according to AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss.

In Corpus Christi, dozens of people waited in line at a Sam’s Club on Thursday. The city and other communities along the coast were shipping in sandbags, extra water and other items.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds have increased to near 60 mph (95 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center said additional strengthening was expected and Harvey could become a hurricane by Friday, when it’s expected to approach the southern Texas coast.

As of Thursday morning, the storm was centered about 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Port Mansfield and was moving north-northwest near 10 mph (17 kph).

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the State Operations Center to elevate its readiness level, making state resources available for possible rescue and recovery actions. Abbott also pre-emptively declared a state of disaster for 30 counties on or near the coast, to speed deployment of state resources to any areas affected.

Emergency officials on Wednesday asked residents along the upper Texas coastline to move or prepare to move inland. Those in low-lying areas were urged to seek higher ground, and those elsewhere were told to monitor official announcements closely.

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.

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