Texans warned to flee as Hurricane Harvey bears down on coast
Hurricane Harvey intensified last night and was poised to hit the mainland United States as the most powerful storm in more than a decade, as authorities warned residents to shelter from life-threatening winds and flooding.
Harvey became a Category 3 hurricane, the third most powerful, the National Hurricane Centre said yesterday. Forecasters said the storm would hit land near Corpus Christi, Texas, around 8pm or 9pm local time (1-2am Irish time), dropping over three feet of rain in some areas along the central Texas coast, and potentially loop back over the Gulf of Mexico before hitting Houston.
"My urgent message to my fellow Texans is that if you live in a region where evacuation has been ordered, you need to heed that advice and get out of harm's way while you can," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a televised address.
US gasoline prices spiked as the storm shutdown 22pc, or 377,000 barrels per day (bpd), of Gulf of Mexico oil production and halted 4.4pc of US refinery output, according to the US government.
"We may be looking at unprecedented and major to record flooding," said forecaster John Tharp of Weather Decision Technologies.
Sea levels may surge as high as 12 feet (3.7 meters) and flood warnings are in effect for Louisiana and northern Mexico, Mr Tharp said.
Gas stations and grocery stores in the region were packed as residents readied their cars and pantries for any shortages following the storm. Coldplay, the British rock band, cancelled a concert in Houston last night, telling fans it didn't want to risk anyone's safety.
At a Willis, Texas, station, about 75km north of Houston, Corey Martinez (40) was heading to Dallas from his Corpus Christi home. "It has been pretty stressful. We're just trying to get ahead of the storm," he said. "We've never been through a hurricane before."
As a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, Harvey could bring winds of 178-208kmh that can uproot trees, rip roofs off homes and disrupt utilities for days. If it maintained its intensity, it would be the first major hurricane to hit the mainland United States since Hurricane Wilma struck Florida in 2005.
The storm was about 140km off Corpus Christi yesterday afternoon, the NHC said.
President Donald Trump yesterday tweeted: "I encourage everyone in the path of #HurricaneHarvey to heed the advice & orders of their local and state officials."
A White House official said the president was considering a request to issue an emergency declaration, providing federal disaster relief.
The storm's approach triggered evacuations in south Texas communities and central coast residents were voluntarily leaving the area. Cities cancelled classes yesterday and Monday at dozens of schools along the south Texas coast, home to 5.8 million people from Corpus Christi to Galveston.
David Ramirez left his home in Corpus Christi early yesterday to wait out the storm in San Antonio, Texas.
"With the level of storm surge they're talking about, there isn't a lot I could do to protect my house," he said while awaiting directions to an emergency shelter.
Harvey also forced the cancellation or delay of at least 40 flights in and out of major airports in Texas yesterday, according to Flightaware.com.