As tropical storm Harvey intensified into a hurricane, residents in Houston were preparing for the natural disaster that is expected to bring ‘multiple hazards’ including rainfall and storm. With the storm gaining strength with every passing hour, various important events scheduled to take place here this weekend have been postponed. Indo American Chamber of Greater Houston (IACCGH) Gala has also been postponed to September 30 in view of the potential harm posed by Harvey.
Forecasters said it would be the first major hurricane to hit Texas in nine years. As a precautionary measure, schools and universities in Houston and nearby areas have cancelled classes as Harvey continues to gain strength, prior to a projected landfall today at the Texas Gulf Coast.
School districts across Houston have also cancelled extra-curricular activities scheduled for today and this weekend. The University of Houston– including its Katy and Sugar Land campuses — will cancel all classes and programming after 1 pm on Friday, according to an emergency alert from the university, said spokeswoman Shawn Lindsey.
While it has been nine years since Texas last saw a hurricane, the state is no stranger to devastating flooding from tropical systems. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison was a multi billion-dollar disaster for the state, specifically Houston.
A hurricane watch is in effect from north of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande, with a storm surge watch stretching north to High Island, on Galveston Bay.
Harvey could be the first hurricane to hit Texas since 2008 when hurricane Ike smashed the coast near Galveston. The storm killed 21 people in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, and caused widespread destruction.
“Harvey is likely to bring multiple hazards, including heavy rainfall, storm surge and possible hurricane conditions to portions of the Texas coast beginning on Friday,” the National Weather Service said. As Harvey churned toward Texas, Gov Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster Wednesday in 30 counties along the Gulf of Mexico.
The governor’s action allows agencies to “quickly deploy resources for the emergency response.” “Texans believe in taking action and always being prepared in the event of an emergency,” Abbott said.
“That is why I am taking every precaution prior to…Harvey making landfall”.
In Corpus Christi, where Harvey will likely make landfall, a voluntary evacuation has been ordered. Long lines for grocery and essentials were seen at stores as the city cancelled today’s dockets in city court and provided self-serve sandbags to residents.
Port Aransas on Mustang Island and nearby Portland issued mandatory evacuation orders. Harvey is rapidly strengthening and is forecast to become a category 3 hurricane with winds of at least 111 mph by the time it hits the middle Texas coast late today or early Saturday, the hurricane center said yesterday.
After hitting Corpus Christi, the storm is expected to stall over the state, forecasters say.
Hurricane-force winds are a concern as the storm builds strength in the Gulf of Mexico, and a potential deluge and subsequent flooding may be a big danger as well, according to meteorologists.
Rainfall amounts increase exponentially when a storm moves at a slower speed, as Harvey has been doing.
Earlier this week, the National Hurricane Center warned, “The system is likely to slow down once it reaches the coast, increasing the threat of a prolonged period of heavy rain and flooding across portions of Texas, southwest Louisiana, and northeastern Mexico into early next week.
“Compounding potential problems is the tidal cycle. If peak storm surge arrives during high tide, parts of the coast could see 2 to 8 feet of flooding, with the potential of 6 to 12 feet between Padre Island National Seashore and Sargent, Texas”.
Meanwhile, residents along the Texas coast aren’t taking any chances; they’re filling sandbags, stocking up on water and boarding up windows.