Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi late Friday evening as a category 4 storm, packing 130 mile-per-hour winds and causing considerable damage. It was the strongest storm to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005 and the strongest to hit Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961.
After moving inland overnight, Harvey was downgraded to a category 1 storm by Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. Southeastern Texas faces catastrophic flooding in the coming days. As FEMA administrator Brock Long put it, “This is going to be a devastating, long, frustrating event.”
Officials described the storm as “a marathon, not a sprint.” Harvey’s forward motion is now only about 6 miles-per-hour and the storm is expected to linger over southeastern Texas, possibly into the middle of next week. This means the storm will be dumping incredible amounts of rain. Worse, ongoing storm surge at the coast will tend to push seawater toward land, making it harder for water from inland rainfall to drain away. Areas near the central Texas coast can expect 20 to 30 inches of rain with isolated spots receiving a mind-boggling 40 inches. Some locations have already received up to 14 inches of rain as of Saturday morning. Even places as far away as the Hill Country near Austin can expect at least 5 inches of rain and possibly much more.
The only good news is that as of Saturday morning, no fatalities have been reported. But officials and weather forecasters are extremely concerned about what may happen over the next 4 or 5 days as flooding reaches catastrophic proportions. Massive rainfall threatens to overwhelm rivers and creeks as well as natural and artificial drainage systems. Flash-flooding is a particular concern since it can happen quickly and catch people unaware.
Residents of certain flood-prone areas have been urged to evacuate and numerous shelters are being set up. Federal help will be on the way, as President Trump has approved Governor Greg Abbot’s request for a disaster declaration. Nevertheless, Texans face a difficult and dangerous few days followed by a long recovery process.