The Associated Press
HOUSTON–“Harvey” intensified into a hurricane today and steered for the Texas coast with the potential for up to three feet of rain, 125 m.p.h. winds, and 12-foot storm surges in what could be the fiercest hurricane to hit the United States in almost a dozen years.
Forecasters labelled Harvey a “life-threatening storm” that posed a “grave risk.”
Millions of people braced for a prolonged battering that could swamp dozens of counties more than 100 miles inland.
Landfall was predicted for late today or early tomorrow between Port O’Connor and Matagorda Bay, a 48-km stretch of coastline about 110 km northeast of Corpus Christi
Harvey grew quickly today from a tropical depression into a Category 1 hurricane.
Fuelled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, it was projected to become a major Category 3 hurricane.
The last storm of that category to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma in October, 2005 in Florida.
Superstorm Sandy, which pummelled New York and New Jersey in 2012, never had the high winds and had lost tropical status by the time it struck.
But it was devastating without formally being called a major hurricane.
“We’re forecasting continuing intensification right up until landfall,” U.S. National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.
All seven Texas counties on the coast from Corpus Christi to the western end of Galveston Island have ordered mandatory evacuations of tens of thousands of residents from all low-lying areas.
Voluntary evacuations have been urged for Corpus Christi itself and for the Bolivar Peninsula–a sand spit near Galveston where many homes were washed away by the storm surge of Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Harvey’s effect could be broad. The hurricane centre said storm surges as much as three feet could be expected as far north as Morgan City, La., some 400 miles away from the anticipated landfall.
And once it comes ashore, the storm is expected to stall–dumping copious amounts of rain for days in areas like flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth most-populous city, and San Antonio.