Thousands of people fled parts of coastal Texas on Friday as Hurricane Harvey strengthened to a major Category 3 storm and hurtled toward the state.
Homeowners, businesses and government officials were scrambling to prepare for what could be a devastating storm. The National Weather Service said it has the potential to batter the state with significant rain, 125-mph winds, 12-foot storm surges, and “catastrophic” flooding.
Counties along the Texas coast ordered thousands of residents to leave, oil workers were fleeing the Gulf of Mexico, and at least one college campus closed. The message from state officials was clear: Get out while you can.
- Hurricane Harvey, now a Category 3 storm, is packing 120-mph winds.
- It is expected to make landfall just east of Corpus Christi between 10 p.m. Friday and 2 a.m. ET Saturday.
- It will likely batter the state with major winds, historic rainfall and potentially “catastrophic” flooding.
- Eight million people are under hurricane warnings, and nearly 1 million others are under tropical storm warnings.
“A lot of people are taking this storm for granted, thinking it may not pose much of a danger to them,” Gov. Greg Abbott told NBC affiliate KPRC in Houston. “Please heed warnings and evacuate as soon as possible.”
Harvey, driven by the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters, was expected to make landfall as a major storm just east of Corpus Christi between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET Saturday. Dozens of inches of rain and widespread flooding will likely be what makes Harvey historic, said NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins.
“It’s hard to imagine just how horrific and destructive this amount of water will be. But it goes without saying that anyone who has decided to stay in a low-lying area is risking their lives,” said Karins.
The last Category 2 storm to hit Texas was Hurricane Ike in 2008. The last Category 3 storm to pummel the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma, which struck Florida in 2005.
A national security adviser said President Donald Trump had been briefed on the hurricane’s progress and preparations for its landing. Trump tweeted on Friday that he had spoken with Abbott and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and was “closely monitoring” the situation. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president “will try to make plans to go to Texas early next week.”
SOURCE: PHIL MCCAUSLAND and DANIEL ARKIN