Warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico are slowing down Hurricane Harvey but not weakening it. Meteorologists have tracked the storm system all week and raised its status from tropical depression to hurricane on Wednesday. They predict the hurricane will make landfall late Friday or early Saturday morning and it will bring wind as well as rain. The rain is expected to be severe. Hurricane Harvey is predicted to stall over the east Texas coastline for up to five days dumping so many inches of water that the National Weather Service “had to add a new high-end category to its forecast map.” The new category represents rainfall amounts in excess of 20 inches. Some forecasters expect as much as 35 inches to fall in a concentrated area somewhere along the coastline.
The largest city in the line of landfall is Corpus Christi. Residents of low-lying areas within the city are being urged to evacuate. Texas Governor Gregg Abbott declared a state of emergency for the 30 counties in Harvey’s trajectory. Though Houston is not expected to receive a direct hit, the intense rainfall and heavy flooding is expected to cause severe damage and even deaths. Officials are urging residents to adhere to road blockades and not to drive through pools of water.
Houston is home to oil and petrochemical refineries. Intense rainfall could stall operations. The environmental and economic impacts of such a scenario remain to be seen but news outlets have reported that such an impact could be “severe.”
It has been a little over a decade since a storm this size has hit Texas. Forecasters predict Hurricane Harvey will reach Category 3 status by the time of landfall. With 125 mph winds and accompanying heavy rainfall, the hurricane alone will be one many Texans are likely to remember. But even after the storm residents will have to contend with storm surges that can raise water levels by 6 to 12 feet.
Like any storm, Hurricane Harvey has unpredictable elements. Timing might be off as well as exact landfall location, but all weather personnel are in agreement that those in the projected storm path be prepared to evacuate quickly. With landfall expected in under 24 hours, those in the path should already have made preparations.