Hurricane Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor in Texas Friday night. The Category 4 storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Rainfall is the biggest threat, with as much as 40 inches expected along the Texas coast.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor in Texas on Friday night, packing sustained wind speeds as high as 130 mph.
The National Hurricane Center warned that Harvey would bring with it "life-threatening and devastating flooding."
Forecasters predict that the storm will stall until Tuesday, dumping up to 40 inches of rain onto much of Texas.
President Donald Trump issued a disaster declaration in Texas Friday night.
The storm surge, the quick rise in water caused by a hurricane's strong winds, could crest 12 feet on Padre Island, putting many sections underwater. Many coastal towns could experience 2 to 8 feet of storm surge.
At 11 p.m. ET on Friday night, the storm was sitting about 30 miles east of Corpus Christi, Texas, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 130 mph, classifying it as a Category 4 hurricane.
Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at The Weather Company who cofounded the weather-data website Weather Underground, told Business Insider that Harvey would most likely cause $5 billion and as high as $10 billion in damage. Masters also said Harvey could produce record rainfall.
"There is an unusual amount of moisture available to this storm, and it is large and powerful, so rainfall records could topple," he said.
In addition to dumping more than 3 feet of rain in some areas, models show that the storm could leave as many as 1.33 million Texans without power. The flooding is expected to be catastrophic and life threatening, National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini said Friday.
Hal Needham, a hurricane scientist at Louisiana State University, wrote in a blog post on the weather site WXshift that worrying about the storm's category underestimated how dangerous the rainfall could be and how much damage it could cause.
"Hurricanes and tropical storms throw three hazards at us: wind, rainfall, and storm surge," he wrote. "Think of the impacts separately. Storms with weaker winds are more likely to stall and dump heavier rainfall. This shocks people, as it would seem intuitive that a Category 5 hurricane would tend to dump more rain than a Category 1 hurricane. But the opposite is true."
While strong winds can rip shingles off roofs and tear down power lines, flooding often causes more widespread, costlier damage — and can be more dangerous for humans. Needham said that the scale used to distinguish a hurricane from a tropical storm was based solely on maximum sustained wind but that "storms are too complex to define by one number."
The major hurricane that most recently hit the Texas Gulf coast was Ike, a Category 4 storm that caused $38 billion in damage in 2008.
The best-case scenario for Harvey, Masters said, would be for the storm to center on unpopulated regions such as the Padre Islands, as Hurricane Bret did in 1999.
But the worst-case scenario, which one of the best models is predicting, is for Harvey to make landfall, dump rain on Texas for a few days, and then go back out into the Gulf of Mexico, intensify, and make landfall again in Louisiana.
"It's possible that this could be a double-landfall hurricane," Masters said.
Hurricane Harvey will be President Donald Trump's 'first serious' crisis of his presidency. The White House said in a statement on Friday afternoon that the president is closely monitoring the storm.
"President Donald J. Trump continues to closely monitor Hurricane Harvey and the preparedness and response efforts of State, local, and Federal officials. Today, the President received a briefing from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Thomas P. Bossert, and his Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. Yesterday, the President spoke with Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and John Bel Edwards of Louisiana and committed to providing assistance as appropriate."
The Health and Human Services Department said it was deploying assets to Texas and Louisiana ahead of Harvey's landfall, moving six Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to the Dallas area, and Incident Response Coordination Teams to support medical personnel in both states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stationed two 250-bed medical units in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which could be deployed anywhere in the state, the health department said. Additional medical stations were also made available in Dallas.
Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Wednesday for 30 counties in Harvey's path, freeing up state money and resources to respond to the storm.
Officials in many coastal cities are encouraging residents to evacuate. The mayor of Corpus Christi told the city's population of over 325,000 to evacuate, particularly if they live in low-lying areas. Two cities, Port Aransas and Aransas Pass, have declared mandatory evacuations.
Masters recommended evacuating only if emergency experts say to, since many of the deaths during Hurricane Rita in 2005 happened in the evacuation.
If you're one of the roughly 12 million people in Harvey's path, the NWS has a useful guide on how to prepare for hurricanes, and the Texas Department of Public Safety has tips on evacuating.