Mandatory evacuations as Hurricane Harvey bears down on Texas
HOUSTON (AP) – Harvey intensified into a hurricane Thursday and steered for the Texas coast with the potential for up to 3 feet of rain, 125 mph winds and 12-foot storm surges in what could be the fiercest hurricane to hit the United States in almost a dozen years.
Forecasters labeled Harvey a “life-threatening storm” that posed a “grave risk.” Millions of people braced for a prolonged battering that could swamp dozens of counties more than 100 miles inland.
Landfall was predicted for late Friday or early Saturday between Port O’Connor and Matagorda Bay, a 30-mile stretch of coastline about 70 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.
Harvey grew quickly Thursday from a tropical depression into a Category 1 hurricane. Fueled by warm Gulf waters, it was projected to become a major Category 3 hurricane. The last storm of that category to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005 in Florida.
Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled New York and New Jersey in 2012, never had the high winds and had lost tropical status by the time it struck. But it was devastating without formally being called a major hurricane.
“We’re forecasting continuing intensification right up until landfall,” National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.
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. In four of those counties, officials ordered their entire county evacuated and warned those who stayed behind that no one could be guaranteed rescue. 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.
Texas officials expressed concern 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.”
Abbott has activated about 700 members of the state National Guard ahead of Hurricane Harvey making landfall.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Harvey was about 305 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, moving to the north-northwest at about 10 mph. Sustained winds were clocked at 85 mph.