Houston Residents Watch Harvey as Hurricane Makes Landfall

Hotels fill quickly as evacuees make their way to North Texas

As Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, Friday night, tornado warnings were up in the Houston area, some 180 miles away, while outer bands of the storm spawned heavy thunderstorms.

There was little traffic on Houston highways that are typically busy.

Many northbound drivers on Interstate 45 between Houston and Dallas earlier in the day said they were Houston residents who preferred to play it safe and avoid Hurricane Harvey.

Houston resident Nicholas Estiverne uses a walker, a bitter reminder of his last encounter with a hurricane.

The former New Orleans resident stayed behind to protect his property as the rest of his family evacuated that low-lying city for Hurricane Katrina.

"That was a mistake," Estiverne said. "I was there during the whole thing. I fell off the helicopter that picked me up off the house, fell on my house."

Now he lives near a creek in low-lying Houston. He said he had just one thought when he heard about the massive rainfall predicted from this storm.

"How can I get out of here? I just wanted to get out," Estiverne said.

Another couple from Houston stayed there for Hurricane Ike in 2008 and lived through many days without water and electricity.

"When you lose all your utilities, you find water is the one you miss the most," said Paul Bustamante, as he checked into a Corsicana hotel with partner Debbie Civitello.

They plan to make a vacation of their out of town trip.

"They have an indoor pool and a fitness room and free breakfast, so we're going to go buy swimsuits and just make the best of it and try to enjoy ourselves while we're hanging out, waiting for the hurricane to be over," Civitello said.

"I hope our house doesn't flood," said Erin Nicholas as she, her husband and baby made a pit stop in Corsicana. "If it was just the two of us we would stay, but with a 5-month old, let's not risk it."

At the Buc-ee's in Madisonville, Lynn Ramirez, who rode out Hurricane Ike, wasn't taking chances this time. "So we're really not worried about things," Ramirez said. "We're worried about people. We've got all our people with us, so we're good."

Not everyone was headed north. Shah and May Mahmud were driving to Houston to move May's sister into her dorm. Neither had been through a hurricane before.

"This is going to be a first time experience," said Shah. "And hopefully the last!"

Officials urged Houston residents not to panic, and evacuations have not been ordered. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner downplayed social media reports that said the storm would be worse that officials were saying.

The hurricane was expected to veer back toward low-lying Houston next week with flooding rain in the forecast.

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