As Hurricane Harvey – widely being described as a “life-threatening storm” – nears landfall in Texas, the hurricane has grown in strength to a Category 2 storm, the worst to hit the U.S. mainland in more than a decade.
- A chaotic day in Texas is about to get even worse – and possibly deadly – as residents are being urged to “get out now.”
- Hurricane Harvey’s landfall is predicted to hit the coast as a Category 3 hurricane at around 1 a.m. Central Time on Saturday.
- On early Friday, forecasters said the hurricane will strengthen from a Category 2 to a Category 3 storm by the time it makes landfall.
- The southern Texas coast, home to 5.8 million people, is bracing for the worst hit as evacuations continue, triggering an exodus of residents.
- The hurricane is the worst since Hurricane Katrina, which claimed the lives of over 1,800 people on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. in 2005.
- President Donald Trump is bracing for a critical test of his abilities as commander-in-chief; America’s attention is glued to his handling of Hurricane Harvey.
As millions of Americans are preparing for the landfall of Hurricane Harvey, the National Weather Service in Houston is warning that the natural disaster could leave swaths of South Texas “uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
Texans urged to evacuate immediately
Early on Friday just hours before Hurricane Harvey is forecast to make landfal on the Texas coast, the hurricane has grown in strength to a Category 2 storm, and local authorities are urging residents to evacuate immediately.
Recent data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicated #Harvey has strengthened with estimated 100 mph and is now a Category 2 storm.
— NWS Houston (@NWSHouston) August 25, 2017
The deadly combination of up to 35 inches of rain and up to 12 feet of sea level surges is forecast to wreck Texas, which has not faced a hurricane this strong in nearly two decades, according to Scientific American. Local officials are warning residents in Texas and Louisiana, which have already been declared states of disaster, to take shelter and brace for the life-threatening storm.
Dozens of schools were shut down on Friday with a massive surge of evacuations taking place along the southern Texas coast, stretching from Corpus Christi to Galveston. Hurricane Harvey’s approaching landfall also forced the cancellation or delay of at least 40 flights at major airports in Texas, according to FlightAware, which tracks flight statuses.
Gas prices to spike as Hurricane Harvey nears landfall
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb, whose city is bracing for the worst hit by the approaching storm, warned his residents to “get out now” or “get to higher ground,” as the city could face up to 10 feet of water.
“If it’s 10 feet of water, there’s a good chance you will lose electricity,” the mayor warned at an emergency news conference on Thursday.
Corpus Christi and Houston – both located on the central Texas coast – are home to some of the most vital oil refineries in the U.S. The approaching landfall of Hurricane Harvey has already “disrupted” oil and gas operations in the area, sending gasoline prices crawling upward, Reuters reported on early Friday.
In fact, the life-threatening storm could trigger spikes in gas prices across the U.S. due to disrupted gas supplies and potential shortages. On Thursday, Bloomberg News reported a 2.6% one-day drop in crude prices due to disruptions in oil and gas operations.
Both Texas and Louisiana have been authorized to use state resources to brace for Hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Harvey: How bad is It compared to Sandy and Katrina?
Meteorologists believe that Hurricane Harvey could bring ruin and death tolls similar in magnitude to Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 people dead in 2005. Hurricane Harvey could become the most devastating hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in over 12 years, as forecasters are warning of heavy rains, strong winds and extreme flooding.
Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in 233 fatalities, was never called a “major hurricane” when it devastated New York and New Jersey in 2012. By contrast, Hurricane Sandy did not have winds as strong as Hurricane Harvey does, according to Fox News.
Hurricane Harvey is forecast to make a landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. While Texas expects winds of up to 125 mph and up to 35 inches of rain, Louisiana is forecast to get up to 15 inches of rain. The National Hurricane Center previously forecast that the hurricane will linger over Texas “for days.”
— NWSWGRFC (@NWSWGRFC) August 25, 2017
As soon as Hurricane Harvey hits the Texas coast, forecasters predict the storm will stay in the area for days, though its path remains uncertain at this point. Some forecasters predict that the hurricane could expand to the Gulf Coast Sunday and Monday. From Tuesday through Wednesday, forecasters say Hurricane Harvey could roar northeast and then make a second landfall in northeastern Texas.
Houston has a tragic history with hurricanes, even non-major ones. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison caused $5 billion in flood damage in the city, while four years later, Hurricane Rita caused massive traffic jams, claiming the lives of over 100 people who were trying to flee the city.
Locals stocking up on supplies and gas
Shoppers in Texas and Louisiana have been stocking up on supplies since early this week, lining up at grocery stores and loading their cars up with food and water. Gas, which is expected to take the biggest hit from the hurricane as over 45% of U.S. refining capacity is along the Gulf Coast, has been in high demand as well, with some residents filming massive lines at local gas stations.
The Coast Guard has upgraded the alert status close to the most critical, ordering a nearly complete closure of all ports in the region. It has also announced that it’s deploying shallow-depth boats to the affected area to be prepared for rescues, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also readying some 500,000 sandbags to try to hold back the floodwaters.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a preemptive state of emergency in some 30 counties that are expected to be hit the worst by Hurricane Harvey in order to enable speedy deployment of essential resources in the state. Mandatory evacuations have been announced in all seven counties on the coast, including Calhoun County and Victoria County.
Harvey preparations even extended to New Orleans, which is forecast to get up to 10 inches of rain.
Trump braces for another test: a natural disaster
The hurricane is expected to test President Trump’s ability to handle a natural disaster of great magnitude, and the storm has in its sights a state that gave the majority of its votes to him (52%) in the 2016 presidential election. Hurricane Harvey could become a defining moment in the presidency of Trump, whose approval rating dipped below 40% earlier this week for the first time in the wake of his handling of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
On Friday President Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the hurricane. On Thursday, the White House said the President was ready to provide resources if necessary.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2017
Hurricane Harvey revived questions about vacancies in key administration posts, including in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, has been stripped of its permanent chief after Trump appointed former DHS leader retired Gen. John Kelly to be his White House chief of staff.