(Hurricane News) Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 Friday night near Rockport, Texas, north of Corpus Christi, after rapidly intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico.
Harvey is the most powerful storm to hit the US mainlands in decades, and may be weakening as it slows down over Texas, but its biggest threat of catastrophic flooding will persist into next week.
The extent of what many are describing as ‘devastating damage” is unknown as of this reporting, with flooding being a major concern. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) Harvey was located about 20 miles west-southwest of Victoria, Texas, moving north-northwest at around 6 mph.
Hurricane-force winds (74-plus mph) continue to blast a small part of the Texas Coastal Bend. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
A Texas Coastal Ocean Observing Network station at Aransas Pass reported sustained winds of 102 mph and a wind gust of 132 mph on Friday night.
Rainfall amounts of more than 10 inches have already accumulated in southeast Texas, including 11.36 inches near Austwell.
Harvey has pushed water 2 to 7 feet above average tide levels near Corpus Christi to Lavaca Bay, and levels are continuing to rise with the onset of high tide.
A hurricane warning has been issued for a portion of the Texas coast, from Baffin Bay to Port O’Connor. A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are likely within the warning area.
Sustained hurricane-force winds are affecting parts of the hurricane warning area.
Tropical storm warnings are in effect from north of Port O’Connor to High Island, Texas, including the cities of Houston and Galveston.
The National Hurricane Center also issued its first-ever public storm surge warning, which includes a swath of the Texas coast from Baffin Bay to High Island. This means a life-threatening storm surge is expected in the warned area in the next 36 hours. This warning does not include Galveston Bay, but does include Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula.
Storm Surge Forecast
Additionally, a tornado watch is in effect until 1 p.m. CDT Saturday afternoon for southeast Texas, as tornadoes will be possible, if not common, within Harvey’s outer rainbands. This watch area includes Houston, Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas.
A reported tornado damaged a McDonald’s sign in northeast Galveston late Friday afternoon. Numerous other short-lived tornadoes have occurred, but damage will take time to sort out
A street light lays toppled by Hurricane Harvey on Saturday morning in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Harvey had intensified into a hurricane and hit the Texas Gulf Coast. JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES
Harvey is likely to weaken to a tropical storm by later Saturday. The circulation center is also expected to be caught in a zone of light steering winds aloft that will stall Harvey. The storm will then meander near the Texas coast for days to come, unleashing tremendous amounts of rain.
The projected path shows the expected track of the circulation center. Note that impacts such as heavy rain and storm surge can extend beyond this forecast path.
In addition, the persistent onshore winds will lead to high water levels on the coast and continued high surf. Gusty winds and saturated soil conditions may lead to more downed trees in the days ahead.
Devastating Rainfall Flooding
A tropical cyclone’s rainfall potential is a function of its forward speed, not its intensity.
With Harvey stalling several days, prolific rainfall, capable of catastrophic flash flooding, will result near the middle and upper Texas coast.
Local National Weather Service (NWS) offices have not minced words about the threat, warning of “some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away” and “numerous road and bridge closures with some weakened or washed out,” with record river flooding expected in some areas.
Harvey’s heavy rain may not entirely exit the areas of Texas it soaks until sometime next Thursday, and may not exit the Mississippi Valley until next Friday.
Corpus ChristiHere are the latest storm surge forecasts, according to the NHC. Note that these inundations above ground level are worst-case scenarios along the immediate coast if the peak surge coincides with high tide. Due to Harvey’s earlier than anticipated landfall, worst-case scenario surge values were avoided, but periods of high tide may bring additional surge and waves ashore over the next few days.
According to the NWS, structural damage to buildings near the coast is expected, with “many washing away.” Battering waves riding atop the surge will lead to “extreme beach erosion,” “massive damage to marinas, docks, boardwalks and piers” in the areas of highest storm surge.At least some coastal flooding, along with battering waves, could persist for several days over multiple tide cycles along the Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts into next week.Furthermore, this water rise from the Gulf of Mexico won’t allow rain-swollen rivers and bayous to drain, compounding the inland flood threat.
The NWS warns of “structural damage to sturdy buildings” and “complete destruction of mobile homes” where the eyewall of Harvey tracks. Furthermore, persistent winds, even if they are not particularly high-end when Harvey is over land, could down more trees than they otherwise would given the rain-soaked or flooded ground, possibly for several days as Harvey lingers. Highest winds so far (gusts unless otherwise noted):
Potential Power Outages
Roads not already impassable by flooding may become blocked from downed trees or other debris. Power and communication outages will be widespread near and inland of the landfall in central and southeast Texas.
Destructive Wind Threat
This coastal flooding and wave action could increase if Harvey’s center re-emerges over the Gulf and intensifies, potentially leading to a second storm surge along parts of the Louisiana or upper Texas coast next week. Again, the cuurent forecast is highly uncertain at this time. Importantly, rising water will cut off near-shore escape routes and secondary routes before peak surge arrives.
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