Strengthening Harvey forecast to slam East Texas as first major hurricane in US since 2005 – Washington Post

 In U.S.

Satellite image of Hurricane Harvey at 12:45 p.m. eastern. (NOAA)

(This story, originally published at 11:05 a.m., is regularly being updated to reflect the latest information and forecast updates.)

Harvey rapidly intensified Thursday morning in the central Gulf of Mexico, and officially became a hurricane at 1 p.m. eastern. The extremely dangerous storm is predicted to strengthen further and plow into southeast Texas Friday as the first major hurricane, rated Category 3 or higher (on the 1-5 Saffir-Simpson intensity scale), to strike U.S. soils in 12 years.

An incredible amount of rain, up to 20-30 inches in some areas, is likely as the storm is predicted to stall and unload torrential downpours for four to six straight days.

“Trying not to be dramatic, but I fear epic flood catastrophe,” tweeted Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society.


GFS model storm projection Friday night through Wednesday night. (PivotalWeather.com)

Not only are the rain and flooding concerns huge, but the storm also has the potential to generate destructive winds and a devastating storm surge — or raise the water above normally dry land at the coast.

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)

Because it is positioned over extremely warm waters and strengthening so fast, the National Hurricane Center predicts the storm, which was a mere tropical depression on Wednesday, to make landfall as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds Friday night.

Tropical Storm Harvey is predicted to plow into east Texas as a hurricane on late Friday Aug. 24. (NOAA)

“Harvey has intensified quickly this morning, and is now forecast to be a major hurricane at landfall, bringing life-threatening storm surge, rainfall, and wind hazards to portions of the Texas coast,” the Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. discussion.

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm in 30 counties. Evacuation orders may come for some coastal areas Thursday.

At 2 p.m., Hurricane Harvey had 85 mph peak winds and was centered about 335 miles southeast of Corpus Christi. It is tracking toward the north-northwest at 10 mph and is expected to become a hurricane shortly.

Hurricane, storm surge and flood warnings plastered coastal and inland portions of east Texas on Thursday morning, and tropical-storm-force winds are forecast to reach the Texas coastline Friday morning.


(National Hurricane Center)

The general computer model consensus is that Harvey will make landfall Friday night between Port Mansfield and San Luis Pass, Tex., the zone under a hurricane warning. The biggest population center in this area is Corpus Christi — which may end up very close to the landfall location.

The five-day “cone of uncertainty,” an illustration of where the storm may track, is squashed down to a circle, indicating that after coming ashore, the storm may stall, unleashing its wrath over the same general area through at least Monday or Tuesday.

The rain and wind from the storm could have profound effects on oil refineries near its path.

Texas has not been hit by a hurricane since 2008, when Ike crashed ashore near Galveston. Harvey could be a storm Texans remember for many years to come.

The rain

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