Harvey made landfall as an extremely powerful Category 4 hurricane at 11 p.m. Friday between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas.
Packing 130 mph winds, the storm became the first major hurricane, rated Category 3 or higher (on the 1-5 Saffir-Simpson intensity scale), to strike U.S. soil in 12 years.
At 11 p.m. Friday, Harvey was centered about 30 miles east-northeast of Corpus Christi, tracking toward the northwest at 8 mph.
A weather station at Aransas Pass – northeast of Corpus Christi and within storm’s eyewall, reported sustained winds up to 111 mph and gusts to 131 mph in the previous hour.
In Rockport, Tex., the National Weather Service logged reports indicating “numerous structures destroyed”, and “buildings collapsed with people trapped inside”. The full extent of the damage will not be known until daylight.
In addition to damaging winds, the National Hurricane Center said it expects “catastrophic and life-threatening” flash flooding along the middle and upper Texas coast.
An incredible amount of rain, 15 to 30 inches with isolated amounts of up to 40 inches, is predicted because the storm is expected to stall and unload torrents for four to six straight days.
In just a few days, the storm may dispense the amount of rain that normally falls over an entire year, shattering records.
The storm is also predicted to generate a devastating storm surge — or raise the water as much as 13 feet above normally dry land at the coast.
The National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi, near where the storm is expected to make landfall, said that due to the combination of flooding from storm surge and rainfall, “locations may be uninhabitable for an extended period.”
It warned of “structural damage to buildings, with many washing away” and that “streets and parking lots become rivers of raging water with underpasses submerged.”
Hurricane, storm surge and flood warnings plastered coastal and inland portions of East Texas Friday evening, and tropical-storm-force winds are forecast to spread well into the interior of Texas Friday night.
The rain forecasts are extremely ominous. “Somebody is going to get a rainstorm to tell their grandkids about,” said Bill Read, a former director of the National Hurricane Center.
Areas along the middle and upper Texas coast may see 15 to 30 inches of rain, with a few areas receiving as much as 40 inches, although it is impossible to pinpoint exactly where the heaviest rain will fall.
“Millions of people from Corpus Christi to Houston will get more than two feet of rain when all is done, with Southern Louisiana getting up to a foot of rain,” said Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service.
Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, could receive 20 inches or more of rain from the storm, depending on exactly where it tracks — with the heaviest moving in Saturday or Sunday and then continuing into early next week.
Matt Lanza, a meteorologist based in Houston, said 20 inches would be “devastating” for the city, depending where it fell.
A worst-case scenario, Lanza said, would be for this amount of rain to fall just northwest of downtown as “all that water has to push through the bayou networks across the city into Galveston Bay.”
The Hurricane Center predicts 6 to 13 feet of water — above normally dry land — inundating coastal areas immediately to the east and north of the landfall location.
That amount is based on the assumption that Harvey makes landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. It is critical that affected residents heed evacuation orders.
Keep in mind that the timing of normal astronomical tides is a factor. If the highest storm surge arrives at or near high tide, the total “storm tide” will be maximized.
In coastal areas, the combination of double digit rainfall and a storm surge that raises water levels (above normally dry land) for days (because the storm will stall) may result in massive water buildup.
A major hurricane is technically defined as one rated Category 3 or higher on the 1-5 Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.
The last major hurricane to make landfall on the United States was Wilma in October 2005.While Hurricane Ike in 2008 produced a devastating storm surge around Galveston and a massive economic toll, it was rated a high-end Category 2 storm at landfall.
While Hurricane Ike in 2008 produced a devastating storm surge around Galveston and a massive economic toll, it was rated a high-end Category 2 storm at landfall.
Superstorm Sandy, another devastating weather event, was no longer officially considered a hurricane when it made landfall near Atlantic City in 2012.
It had transitioned into a what was called a “post tropical storm” as it was beginning to lose tropical characteristics.
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