Hurricane Harvey rapidly intensified today, strengthening from a Category 2 storm up to a Category 3, and it is - right now 4:00 PM EDT - only 1 Millibar of Central Pressure away from a Category 4 Hurricane! Devastating winds and life-threatening storm-surge flooding will hit the Texas coast tonight, with surging waters reaching twelve feet above ground level in some areas, as wind-driven-water piles up on itself and comes ashore. Property Loss will be horrifying. Loss of life is expected.
Data is from the Hurricane FAQ posted by the U.S. Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Florida.
|Maximum sustained wind speed||Minimum surface pressure||Storm surge|
|1||74-95||33-42||64-82||greater than 980||3-5||1.0-1.7|
|5||156+||70+||136+||less than 920||19+||
Harvey, a Category 3 hurricane roaring out of the Gulf of Mexico, continues to barrel toward the Texas coastline. Authorities warned residents to take shelter from what could be life-threatening winds and floods.
The National Hurricane Center updated Harvey from a Category 2 hurricane in a Friday afternoon update.
The storm is currently about 75 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.
The maximum sustained winds have increased to about 120 mph with higher gusts, the NHC said.
Harvey is set to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday on the central Texas coast, where Corpus Christi and Houston are home to some of the biggest U.S. refineries. Oil and gas operations have already been affected, and gasoline prices have spiked.
"Now is the time to urgently hide from the wind. Failure to adequately shelter may result in serious injury, loss of life, or immense human suffering," the National Weather Service said.
Tide gauges near Corpus Christi and Port Aransas indicate that a storm surge between 1 and 2 feet is already occurring.
Up to 35 inches of rain are expected over parts of Texas, with winds up to 125 mph, and sea levels may surge as high as 12 feet. Louisiana could also get 10 to 15 inches of rain. Flood warnings are in effect for Louisiana and northern Mexico.
"Life-threatening and devastating flooding expected near the coast due to heavy rainfall and storm surge," the National Hurricane Center warned.
The worst storm surge damage is expected to start at about 8 p.m., ET, and continue through 4 a.m., according to NBC Weather Unit's Bill Karins.
The widespread flooding will be what makes Harvey historic, he added.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke directly to his state's residents at a press conference Friday, urging them to "strongly consider" an evacuation of the area immediately.
"What you don't know, and what nobody else knows right now, will be the magnitude of flooding in the coming days, in the aftermath of the initial surge," Abbott said.
"If you wait until you realize how serious this condition is, you likely will find that it's too late to evacuate. So I would urge everybody who has the possibility to consider evacuating as soon as possible."
Abbott announced that he had issued a "major disaster declaration" to President Donald Trump moments before the press conference. The declaration "will trigger the additional help and assistance from the federal government that the state of Texas is asking for," Abbott said.
More than 900 personnel on multiple task forces have been enlisted for future search and rescue efforts, and game wardens are already at work in these efforts with boats in multiple locations, Abbott said.
He also told Texas residents that all state parks will be open to evacuees at no charge.
The White House, meanwhile, said Trump would travel to Texas next week.
The storm's approach triggered evacuations and forced the cancellation of classes on Friday at dozens of schools along the south Texas coast, home to 5.8 million people from Corpus Christi to Galveston.
"The most important question we have for this evening is will Corpus Christi go through the destructive eyewall or will it just miss them to the east?" Karins said. "A few miles will make a big difference between a city mostly inhabitable after the storm versus one which will need weeks before life returns to any normalcy."
It also forced the cancellation or delay of at least 40 flights in and out of major airports in Texas on Friday, according to Flightaware.com, a site that tracks airline traffic.
Most big airlines have waived their change fees ahead of the flight disruptions, according to USA Today.
At George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, 47 flights had been cancelled and 46 delayed as of 1 p.m., ET. Hobby Airport, also in Houston, reported 54 cancellations and 40 delays.
All flights in and out of Corpus Christi International Airport have been cancelled.
The Port of Houston, the largest in the state, will be closed for several days.
"We handle about 8,000 vessels a year, and on a normal day you'll see about 40 or 50 vessels coming in and out of here," the port's executive director Roger Guenther said. "It'll create somewhat of a backlog, but we'll work diligently to get all the ships that need to come to the port and get this place back going as soon as possible."
The port provides 65 percent of petrochemical products to the U.S.
Louisiana and Texas declared states of disaster, authorizing the use of state resources to prepare for the storm. President Trump has been briefed and is ready to provide resources if needed, the White House said on Thursday.