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Harvey Lashes Texas Coast With High Wind, Torrential Rain

"Texas is about to have a very significant disaster," FEMA director Brock Long said

What to Know

  • NWS upgraded Harvey to a major Cat. 4 hurricane Friday evening; downgraded to Cat. 2 early Saturday morning
  • Extreme winds expected; main threat will be flooding and storm surge
  • State of disaster declared for 30 counties on or near the coast

Watch live video from Palacios, Texas, as Hurricane Harvey moves inland on the Central Texas coast.

Hurricane Harvey smashed into Texas late Friday, lashing a wide swath of the Gulf Coast with strong winds and torrential rain from the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade.

The National Hurricane Center said the eye of the Category 4 hurricane made landfall about 10 p.m. CDT about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor, bringing with it 130 mph sustained winds and flooding rains.

The eye of the hurricane made a second landfall at about 1 a.m. local time on the northeastern shore of Copano Bay, as the slow-moving storm churned inland at about 6 mph. Harvey was then downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane.

Harvey's approach sent tens of thousands of residents fleeing the Gulf Coast, hoping to escape the wrath of an increasingly menacing storm set to slam an area of Texas that includes oil refineries, chemical plants and dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city.

Fueled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, Harvey grew rapidly, accelerating from a Category 1 early in the morning to a Category 4 by evening. Its transformation from an unnamed storm to a life-threatening behemoth took only 56 hours, an incredibly fast intensification.

Reports of damage began to emerge from Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 people that was directly in the path of Harvey when it came ashore.

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.

KIII-TV reports that 10 people have been treated there. The Associated Press was unable to reach an operator at the Aransas County Detention Center in Rockport just after midnight. Carruth also said that Rockport's historic downtown area has seen extensive damage.

Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Sims said there are about 15 volunteer firefighters at the city's fire station waiting for conditions to improve enough for their vehicles to safely respond to pleas for help.

"There's nothing we can do at this moment. We are anxious to get out there and make assessments, but we're hunkered down for now," he said.

Earlier Friday, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling KIII-TV 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.

[NATL] Dramatic Images: Floods Hit as Harvey Drenches Texas

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned that the monster system would be "a very major disaster," and the forecasts drew fearful comparisons to Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest ever to strike the U.S.

In a tweet Friday evening, President Donald Trump said: "At the request of the Governor of Texas, I have signed the Disaster Proclamation, which unleashes the full force of government help!"

In another tweet early Saturday, Trump wrote: "We will remain fully engaged w/ open lines of communication as #HurricaneHarvey makes landfall. America is w/ you! @GovAbbott @FEMA @DHSgov"

Millions of people were bracing for a prolonged battering from the hurricane, which will likely be the strongest hurricane to hit the US in about 13 years. Forecasters labeled Harvey a "life-threatening storm" that posed a "grave risk," saying it could swamp several counties more than 100 miles inland.

Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on MSNBC earlier Friday that Harvey was a "very serious" threat and that the window for evacuating was quickly closing.

"Texas is about to have a very significant disaster," Long warned.

At least one researcher predicted heavy damage that would linger for months or longer.

"In terms of economic impact, Harvey will probably be on par with Hurricane Katrina," said University of Miami senior hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. "The Houston area and Corpus Christi are going to be a mess for a long time."

Aside from savage winds and 12-foot storm surges, the system was expected to drop over 3 feet of rain.

Gov. Greg Abbott is warning south Texans to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Harvey and not take any chances.

Rain bands from the storm began pelting the coast early Friday. As of 1 p.m. Friday, Harvey was centered about 85 miles southeast of Corpus Christi and was moving northwest at 10 mph.

All seven Texas counties on the coast from Corpus Christi to the western end of Galveston Island have ordered mandatory evacuations of tens of thousands of residents from all low-lying areas. Officials in four counties ordered full evacuations and warned there was no guarantee of rescue for people staying behind. Voluntary evacuations have been urged for Corpus Christi itself and for the Bolivar Peninsula, a sand spit near Galveston where many homes were washed away by the storm surge of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

The Dallas Office of Emergency Management opened at shelter Friday at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center to accommodate evacuees from Hurricane Harvey.

Texas officials expressed concern Thursday that not as many people are evacuating compared with previous storms.

"A lot of people are taking this storm for granted thinking it may not pose much of a danger to them," Gov. Greg Abbott told Houston television station KPRC. "Please heed warnings and evacuate as soon as possible."

Victoria bracing for more than 30 inches of rain as Hurricane Harvey sits over the Texas Gulf Coast. Shelters in Victoria are full.

The U.S. Navy has closed Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and ordered the evacuation of all non-essential active-duty military. Oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico also began evacuating employees Thursday.

Abbott has activated about 700 members of the state National Guard ahead of Hurricane Harvey making landfall.

A NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft flies into Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey's effect would be broad. The hurricane center said storm surges as much as 3 feet could be expected as far north as Morgan City, Louisiana, some 400 miles away from the anticipated landfall.

And once it comes ashore, the storm is expected to stall, dumping copious amounts of rain for days in areas like flood-prone Houston, the nation's fourth most-populous city, and San Antonio.

Homes and businesses in Rockport are boarded up as Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas coast. Fishermen tell NBC 5's Kris Gutierrez they are worried about their livelihood if the storm produces the expected damage.

State transportation officials were considering when to turn all evacuation routes from coastal areas into one-way traffic arteries headed inland. John Barton, a former deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, predicted state officials will do this before the storm hits, but said timing and determining where to use it are the key factors. Storms change paths and if contraflow starts too early, supplies such as extra gasoline needed to support impacted areas can't get in, he noted.

Meanwhile, residents along the Texas coast flocked to grocery and hardware stores, and gas stations to stock up on last-minute supplies, NBC affiliate KRIS reported. 

Harvey would be the first significant hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 brought winds of 110 mph to the Galveston and Houston areas and inflicted $22 billion in damage. It would be the first big storm along the middle Texas coast since Hurricane Claudette in 2003 caused $180 million in damage.

A NOAA hurricane hunter flies into Hurricane Harvey.

It's taking aim at the same vicinity as Hurricane Carla, the largest Texas hurricane on record. Carla came ashore in 1961 with wind gusts estimated at 175 mph and inflicted more than $300 million in damage. The storm killed 34 people and forced about 250,000 people to evacuate.

First lady Melania Trump tweeted "thoughts and prayers" to those leaving near the hurricane's path, adding the "entire country [is] with you."

Evacuees from the Texas Gulf Coast are seeking shelter at the St. Joseph High School gym in Victoria. It was built to withstand hurricane force winds.

The White House said the president was closely monitoring the hurricane and planned to travel to Texas early next week to view recovery efforts. The president was expected to receive briefings during the weekend at Camp David.

Trump's homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser, Tom Bossert, said the administration was "bringing together the firepower of the federal government to assist the state and local governments, but the state and local governments are in the lead here."

Millions of people in South Texas have made the decision to either flee to safety or ride out the storm as Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas coast.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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