Hurricane Harvey reaches Category 4 intensity; Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calls for evacuations – Washington Post

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Hurricane Harvey intensified into a Category 4 storm as it churned toward what was certain to be a devastating landfall near this city by early Saturday morning.

The storm was on track to be the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. Forecasters and government officials warned of a full-blown natural disaster, with catastrophic flooding, ferocious winds up to 130 miles per hour and a storm surge that could reach 12 feet.

Soon after the outer bands of Harvey reached the South Texas coast, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Friday afternoon urged citizens to evacuate immediately low-lying and coastal areas. He sent a written request to President Trump asking him to declare a major disaster in Texas.

“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.”

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)

White House officials said Friday that the declaration is under consideration and that Trump is contemplating visiting Texas sometime early next week.

Harvey is the first natural disaster faced by the Trump administration. President 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 of Iowa (R) gave the president a warning via Twitter: “keep on top of hurricane Harvey dont mke same mistake Pres Bush made w Katrina.”

Here in Corpus Christi, city and county officials said they are 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.

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)

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 hot 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, the nation’s fourth-largest city.

“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.

Jennifer Cantrell, 37, a Houston social worker who endured Hurricane Ike in 2008, bought four 40-pound bags of topsoil to place at the foot of her door in her first-floor apartment.

“We got to worry about all the folks who moved here in the last years and haven’t seen a hurricane yet,” she said outside a Citgo gas station, where she had stopped to stock up on cigarettes. “You’ve just got to be prepared to be indoors for days with no electricity, no water.”

The Texas Military Department deployed about 700 members of the State Guard and National Guard around the coastal region on Friday as the storm moved in. Black Hawk and Lakota helicopter crews were put on standby for search and rescue.

The American Red Cross mobilized staffers from across the country. Paul I. Carden Jr., regional disaster officer for the Red Cross’s National Capital Region in Washington, said in Corpus Christi that residents are foolish if they decide not to evacuate.

“A hurricane in its own right is bad, but a hurricane with five to seven days worth of rain over the same area, I know it’s going to be a significant disaster,” he said. “This is your life. This is your family’s life. This is not a time to gamble with both.”

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