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25 August 2017

Hurricane Harvey, Texas: Damage reports as category 4 makes landfall

A satellite image of Hurricane Harvey. Picture: AFP

THE formidable Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas at 10pm local time, hammering the coast with fierce winds and torrential rain as it begins its violent rampage.

The category 4 monster storm is expected to bring “catastrophic” flooding and major power outages as it makes its way across the state.

Damage reports have already started flooding in, with Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth saying that he has received reports of a tree falling into a mobile home and roofs collapsing on multiple houses.

Mayor Patrick Rios has offered a chilling warning to residents ignoring the instruction of “get out and get out now” and refusing to leave the coastal town of Rockport.

The majority of the town’s 9,500 population has evacuated, with Rios telling those choosing to stay to “mark their arm with a sharpie, put their social security number” so they can be identified if found dead.

A damaged stop light blocks a street as Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in Corpus Christi, Texas, smashing the Gulf Coast with severe winds and heavy downpour. Picture: Nick Wagner/APA

A damaged stop light blocks a street as Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in Corpus Christi, Texas, smashing the Gulf Coast with severe winds and heavy downpour. Picture: Nick Wagner/APASource:AP

A power generator truck tips in front of Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, TexaPicture: Courtney Sacco /Corpus Christi Caller-Times via AP

A power generator truck tips in front of Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, TexaPicture: Courtney Sacco /Corpus Christi Caller-Times via APSource:AP

Over one hundred centimetres of rain is expected to batter the US Gulf Coast, with the heaviest rainfall anticipated in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston, according to a statement released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

With the hurricane rapidly intensifying officials are now expecting to see major flooding from two directions, with forecasters labelling it a “life threatening storm”.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been urged to flee the path of the monster storm as Texas and Louisiana brace for massive inland flooding.

US President Donald Trump has signed a federal disaster declaration at the request of the Governor of Texas, Greg Abott, in order to provide federal aid to those in the path of destruction as quickly as possible.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee says that the president is making preparations to travel to Texas early next week to monitor the damage caused by the hurricane. Trump has also urged people to stay safe as the storm strengthens.

As the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicted, Harvey is the strongest storm to hit the US mainland in 12 years, packing winds of 209km/h and creating the potential for “life-threatening and devastating” floods in an area that processes some seven million barrels of oil a day.

A NASA radar image of the formidable storm.

A NASA radar image of the formidable storm.Source:Supplied

Local television footage showed supermarket aisles plucked bare, highways clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and long lines snaking outside gas stations as the country’s top emergency official urged coastal dwellers to get to safety.

“Texas is about to have a very significant disaster,” Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long told CNN. “Their window to evacuate is rapidly coming to a close.”

Corpus Christi — a major oil refining centre where the hurricane was projected to make landfall Saturday morning — has issued voluntary evacuation orders, while the evacuation was made mandatory in the nearby coastal hamlets of Port Arkansas and Arkansas Pass.

An ominous view at Crystal Beach, Texas with larger than usual waves come ashore as Hurricane Harvey approaches the coast. Picture: Guiseppe Barranco/AP

An ominous view at Crystal Beach, Texas with larger than usual waves come ashore as Hurricane Harvey approaches the coast. Picture: Guiseppe Barranco/APSource:AP

“For anyone who has not already evacuated, please hurry to do so,” the city of Portland, Texas, warned on its website in capital letters.

Many residents were bent on sitting the storm out, however, like in Corpus Christi were people were seen packing sandbags to protect their homes from flooding.

Officials in Houston, the biggest city in the path of the storm, cancelled school classes until Monday although officials said they did not anticipate an evacuation at this stage.

Luis Perez watches waves crash again a jetty in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Harvey intensifies in the Gulf of Mexico. Picture: AP Photo/David J Phillip

Luis Perez watches waves crash again a jetty in Galveston, Texas, as Hurricane Harvey intensifies in the Gulf of Mexico. Picture: AP Photo/David J PhillipSource:AP

‘CATASTROPHIC FLOODING EXPECTED’, OIL RIGS UNDER THREAT

Harvey was bearing northwest at 16km/h as of 10am central time on Friday (1am Saturday, Australian eastern standard time).

The first major storm of the annual Atlantic hurricane season, Harvey was expected to dump as much as 89 centimetres of rain in some parts of Texas between now and next Wednesday.

“Catastrophic flooding expected across portions of southern and southeastern Texas,” the NHC warned in its latest advisory.

Lynn Dixon places sandbags outside his home decor store in Galveston, Texas. Picture: AP Photo/David J Phillip

Lynn Dixon places sandbags outside his home decor store in Galveston, Texas. Picture: AP Photo/David J PhillipSource:AP

Houston is braced for about 50cm of rainfall, with a risk of dangerous flash flooding across the region.

Mr Long said the most pressing danger was the storm surge — set to reach between 1.8 and 3.7 meters above ground level in the worst-hit part of the Texas coast — but that many counties inland should also prepare for a “significant inland flood event”.

With one-third of the US refining capacity potentially under threat, several energy companies evacuated personnel from oil and gas platforms in the heart of the US Refinery Row. One oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico has been evacuated, as well as 39 manned production platforms, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, representing an estimated 9.5 per cent of oil output and 14.7 per cent of natural gas output in the Gulf.

A sign on a business reads ‘Closed for Harvey’ as people prepare for approaching Hurricane Harvey. Picture: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

A sign on a business reads ‘Closed for Harvey’ as people prepare for approaching Hurricane Harvey. Picture: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP

“Harvey’s greatest risk to refiners is not just wind damage to the refineries, but also the associated rainfall and the potential for electric power failure,” said James Williams of WTRG Economics.

Should a refinery shut down, he said it could take a week to get it up and running again.

NEW ORLEANS ON ALERT

US President Donald Trump weighed in with a tweet — “As #HurricaneHarvey intensifies — remember to #PlanAhead” — while Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued disaster declarations in 30 counties, a pre-emptive move allowing the state “to quickly deploy resources for the emergency response effort”.

Storm activity off the southeast coast of the US. Picture: AFP/NOAA-NASA GOES Project

Storm activity off the southeast coast of the US. Picture: AFP/NOAA-NASA GOES ProjectSource:AFP

In neighbouring Louisiana where the storm was forecast to hover for many days and could deluge flood-prone New Orleans, Governor John Bel Edwards said he spoke with the President who “offered his full support”.

“This is going to play out over the next week or so,” Mr Edwards told a news conference, “which makes it particularly dangerous.”

Mr Edwards issued an emergency declaration for his entire state, and hundreds of boats were made ready for potential rescues along with more than half a million sandbags to hold back floodwaters.

The bread section of a supermarket is empty as people prepare for the possible arrival of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. Picture: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

The bread section of a supermarket is empty as people prepare for the possible arrival of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. Picture: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP

In New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina caused widespread flooding and killed more than 1800 people in 2005, Mayor Mitch Landrieu told journalists that high-water rescue vehicles and boats were at the ready — although there were no evacuations planned.

“We just need to make sure that we’re prepared,” Mr Landrieu said.

— with wires

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