Hurricane Harvey hits Texas, bringing heavy rain, storm surge – Washington Post

 In U.S.
Gulf Coast residents awoke to dire warnings of a major natural disaster Saturday as Hurricane Harvey charged inland, with weather officials downgrading it to a Category 1 storm but cautioning that the danger was far from over.

Images of downed trees and lamposts and darkened streets began trickling in early in the day, after the storm roared ashore at 10 p.m. Central time Friday with 130 mph winds — the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Local media reported roofs blown off homes in this city of 320,000 people and the city manager of nearby Rockport said its historic downtown had seen excessive damage, the Associated Press reported.

The National Weather Service said the storm would continue to weaken over the course of the morning, but warned that it would stall over southeast Texas, wreaking more damage and bringing record-setting rainfall totals over the next five days. It said some locations in southeast Texas had already reported 16 inches of rain by 5 a.m. Central time and predicted total rain accumulations of 15 inches to 30 inches in many areas, and as much as 40 inches in isolated areas.

Forecasters and government officials scrambled to deal with a storm that caught them off guard this week after initially being a mere tropical depression in the western Gulf of Mexico. By Friday, they were warning of catastrophic flooding, ferocious winds and a storm surge that could reach 12 feet.

Soon after the outer bands of Harvey reached the South Texas coast Friday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) urged citizens to evacuate low-lying and coastal areas immediately. President Trump said Friday night that he has signed a disaster proclamation in Texas after Abbott sent him a written request.

Waves crash against the coast as Hurricane Harvey intensifies in the Gulf of Mexico in Port Lavaca, Tex., on Aug. 25, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“The storm surge, coupled with the deluge of rain, could easily lead to billions of dollars of property damage and almost certainly loss of life,” Abbott wrote. “It is not hyperbole to say that if the forecast verifies, Texas is about to experience one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the state.”

White House aides said that Trump would visit Texas next week.

Harvey is the first natural disaster faced by the Trump administration. Trump on Friday tweeted that he had spoken with the governors of Texas and Louisiana and was “here to assist as needed.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley ­(R-Iowa) gave the president a warning via Twitter: “keep on top of hurricane Harvey dont mke same mistake Pres Bush made w Katrina.”

Rockport city manager Kevin Carruth said multiple people were taken to the county’s jail for assessment and treatment after the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed, according to the Associated Press. Carruth also said that Rockport’s historic downtown area has seen extensive damage, AP reported.

About 10 people in Rockport have been treated for injuries suffered during the hurricane, KIII-TV reported. Earlier Friday, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios told the TV station that those who chose to stay put “should make some type of preparation to mark their arm with a Sharpie pen,” implying doing so would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.

Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow breaks down the three main threats from Harvey: Torrential downpours, a storm surge and heavy winds. (Claritza Jimenez,Jason Samenow/The Washington Post)

Here in Corpus Christi, city and county officials said Friday they were ready for the worst.

“Game on,” said Mayor Joe McComb at a news conference. “We’re looking forward to having a very good positive result from this storm. We’ll get through this; we’ll be better for it because the community has been pulling together.”

But many residents were nervous as the storm approached Friday.

In nearby Aransas Pass, 66-year-old Mike Taylor said he was resigned to riding out the storm in his one-story house just a few blocks from the water. As part of routine hurricane preparations, the town maintains a list of residents who need help in leaving. Taylor, who does not own a car and lives with his disabled 40-year-old son, said he thought he was on the list.

No one came for him.

“Now, I am just out trying to find some groceries,” said Taylor, who was trudging along Route 35 in a yellow raincoat, even though all the grocery and convenience stores appeared closed. “I lost my driver’s license because I am nearly blind.”

Several hundred miles of the Texas Gulf Coast are under hurricane and storm-surge warnings. Harvey is expected to stall over the coast and could even drift back out over open water, drawing fresh energy from the warm gulf waters before meandering ashore again closer to Galveston.

That scenario would deliver historic amounts of rain to the region, with some models showing accumulations in feet rather than inches. Flooding is likely in and around Houston.

“Small streams, creeks, canals, and ditches may become raging rivers. Flood control systems and barriers may become stressed,” the National Weather Service said in an advisory Friday.

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