“Even though #Harvey has made landfall, the rainfall threat is only beginning,” the National Hurricane Center said … – New York Times
CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. — Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Central Texas coast as a Category 4 storm late Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center, which warned of catastrophic flooding from the storm surge and torrential rains.
The eye of the storm swept ashore with 130-mile-per-hour winds about 9:45 p.m. between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, just northeast of Corpus Christi. But as the center of the storm moved to the northeast toward Victoria and other inland cities, the danger was just starting.
“Even though #Harvey has made landfall, the rainfall threat is only beginning,” the National Hurricane Center said in a Twitter message.
Later, the storm made a second landfall — on the Northeastern Shore of Copano Bay. The hurricane was downgraded to a Category 3, with 125 m.p.h. winds.
Within an hour of landfall, there were reports of major damage in Corpus Christi and north of there. The city manager in Rockport told the ABC News affiliate in Corpus Christi that at least two people were trapped inside collapsed buildings.
The hurricane center warned that the storm surge would peak between 9 to 13 feet above ground level in the Corpus Christi area. Rainfall, it said, could total as much as 40 inches.
Because the storm was moving slowly, damage was expected to be more severe than if it had hit land at a faster clip. “Due to the slow motion of Harvey and a prolonged period of onshore flow,” the hurricane center said, “water levels will remain elevated for several days.”
Forecasters called it the first “major hurricane” to hit the United States in nearly 12 years. Among the damage that was expected to trail Hurricane Harvey: downed walls and power lines, roofless businesses and unanchored mobile homes. Electricity could be unavailable for weeks.
Up and down the 370-mile Texas coast — from Port Arthur to Brownsville — there were fears of the type of destruction left by hurricanes in Texas about a decade ago. Gov. Greg Abbott asked for federal help, and President Trump obliged late Friday by signing a disaster proclamation for the state.
Residents in the Corpus Christi area had spent much of the day scrambling to evacuate while the millions living in the Houston area were given contradictory guidance from the authorities on whether to leave or stay put.
Texas Medical Center, one of the largest medical complexes in the world, is in Houston, and officials there awaited the worst with a full complement of patients on site. “We are hunkered down,” said William McKeon, the center’s president and chief executive, speaking by phone from his office as the hurricane made landfall about 200 miles southwest of the city.
In nearby coastal Galveston, about 120 patients remained at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Jennie Sealy Hospital on Friday night, said Chris Smith-Gonzalez, a media relations officer. The hospital opened last year and was “built to withstand a significant hurricane,” he said, after Hurricane Ike caused severe damage to the former medical campus in 2008.
Refineries in the Houston and Beaumont-Port Arthur areas, both nerve centers for the nation’s energy industry, shut down operations in preparation for the storm, sending jitters through global energy markets.
To be called a major storm, a hurricane must be Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which means winds of 111 to 129 m.p.h. Those winds can bring devastating damage, stripping off roof decking and bringing down many trees. Ike was a Category 2, though it pushed a monster storm surge. Sandy, despite the devastation it caused, had become what is known as a post-tropical storm before it made landfall.
Forecasters emphasized that it was not just the wind that made Harvey dangerous. Storm surge, the water that a hurricane pushes ahead of it, can be tremendously destructive. Katrina, one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes in United States history, inflicted much of its harm in 2005 in New Orleans through the surge, which overwhelmed the area’s faulty levees.
The sense of anxiety and confusion that preceded landfall was exacerbated Friday by mixed messages from state and local officials. The conflicting views from the Republican governor and the Democratic mayor of Houston reflected the tension that has come to define much of Texas politics.
At an afternoon news conference, Governor Abbott strongly urged Houstonians to consider evacuating. “I think it would be a good idea to take a few days off, get out of the Houston area,” he said.
Soon after the governor’s message, Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, who for days had been telling residents to shelter in place, advised in a Twitter post: “Please think twice before trying to leave Houston en masse. No evacuation orders have been issued for the city.”
But while forecasters were warning of epic rains in Houston, some in the city were approaching the storm with aplomb.
“We’ve never evacuated,” said Rita Kehoe Welsh, 97, who sat calmly Friday at the Bellaire Coffee Shop, working on a crossword puzzle. Asked how she was preparing for the storm, she laughed and said, “I’m not.”
In Port Aransas, on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, the authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders, fearing that life-threatening flooding and winds would batter the town.
Frank Eicholz, 55, and his wife were among those who evacuated their home there. Mr. Eicholz, a local fishing guide, grew up on the Gulf Coast, and remembers Hurricane Celia in 1970, which struck Corpus Christi when he was 8.
“I can remember there wasn’t a single fence standing after Celia,” he said. “It ripped part of our roof off our house. For an 8-year-old kid, that’s kind of scary.”
When a Spec’s liquor store opened in Houston on Friday morning, it did not have to wait long for customers: About 125 of them had lined up outside in the rain. By early afternoon, the store’s manager, Ryan Holder, estimated that about 3,000 people had passed through, filling the parking lot and then their cars with wine and not a few kegs of beer.
But, as double the usual number of customers came through the door, water was crucial.
“Water, ice, beer,” Mr. Holder said. “We have a ton of water. We went through 31 pallets of them yesterday. We’ve gone through 20 so far today. We’ve got 40 more on the way. We ain’t running out.”
Manny Fernandez reported from Corpus Christi, Tex., and Alan Blinder from Houston. Reporting was contributed by Simon Romero from Albuquerque, Clifford Krauss from Houston, David Montgomery from Austin, Tex., and Jose A. DelReal, Sheri Fink, John Schwartz and Matt Stevens from New York.
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