Harvey hits Texas; Strongest hurricane since Carla in ’61

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Harvey damage Mobile homes are destroyed at an RV park after Hurricane Harvey landed in the Coast Bend area on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Port Aransas, Texas. The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Harvey from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm. Harvey came ashore Friday along the Texas Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds, the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade. (Gabe Hernandez/Corpus Christi Caller-Times via AP)

Hurricane Harvey rolled over the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday, smashing homes and businesses and lashing the shore with wind and rain so intense that drivers were forced off the road because they could not see in front of them.

CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports from Texas.

The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 130 mph (209 kph) winds. It weakened overnight to Category 1 and then to a tropical storm.

But the system’s most destructive powers were just beginning. Rainfall that will continue for days could dump more than 40 inches of water and inundate many communities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.

“Our focus is shifting to the extreme and potentially historic levels of flooding that we could see,” said Eric Blake, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

No deaths were immediately reported. High winds kept emergency crews out of many places, and authorities said it could be hours before emergency teams are able to fully assess damage.

By dawn, nearly 300,000 consumers were without power in the coastal region, and nearly 20 inches (0.5 meters) of rain had fallen in some places.

There is one confirmed death from Harvey in the coastal city of Rockport.

The Austin American-Statesman reported Saturday that Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills Jr. also says 12 to 14 people were injured by Harvey.

Harvey delivered a direct blow to Rockport, a city of about 10,000 people.

The mayor of Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm’s path, said his community took a blow “right on the nose” that left “widespread devastation,” including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.

Mayor Charles “C.J.” Wax told The Weather Channel that the city’s emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.

About 10 people were taken to the county jail for treatment after the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed, television station KIII reported.

On Friday, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling the station that people who chose not to evacuate should mark their arm with a Sharpie pen, implying that the marks would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.

In the storm’s immediate aftermath, the Coast Guard sent two helicopters to try to rescue the crews of three tugboats reported in distress in a channel near Port Aransas. And about 4,500 inmates were evacuated from three state prisons in Brazoria County south of Houston because the nearby Brazos River was rising.

By early afternoon, Harvey had weakened to a tropical storm. Its maximum sustained winds had fallen to about 70 mph (113 kph), and the storm was centered about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio. It was moving north at 2 mph (3 kph), the hurricane center said.

Hurricane Harvey is now just a tropical storm, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a threat to Texas. Harvey is the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. in more than a decade, and could dump rain well into next week. Climate Central meteorologist Sean Sublette from joins CGTN’s Susan Roberts to discuss the storm’s impact.

Story compiled with information from The Associated Press and AFP.

CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports from Texas.