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Hurricane Harvey, which began as a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday August 23, rapidly escalated to a Category 4 storm as it made its way towards Southern Texas. As expected, the powerful hurricane, which packed 130mph winds, made landfall near the city of Rockport on August 25 at about 10:00 pm local time, causing widespread destruction. Three hours later, it made a second landfall on the northeastern shore of Copano Bay, this time as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds!
The strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in a decade, and the first to make landfall in Texas since 2008, Harvey has now been downgraded to a tropical storm. However, it continues to bring torrential rain to the area. The biggest impact has been felt in Houston. As of 7:00 am local time Sunday, the nation’s fourth largest city had received over 25 inches of rain and an additional 3 to 15 inches is expected to fall over the next few days. To make matters worse, the hurricane has spawned several tornadoes, making it dangerous for residents who had sought refuge in their attics or roofs to escape the rising flood waters.
Meanwhile, officials have asked residents of Port Aransas and Port Lavaca, that were directly in the path of the hurricane’s fury, to stay away until they can assess the devastation left behind by the powerful storm. They are also conducting a search and rescue operation for the estimated 100 Port Aransas residents who did not evacuate. Those still in Port Lavaca are under a curfew because all power, water, and sewer services are down. Initial reports from Rockport indicate that several buildings have been razed to the ground and with about 60 inches of additional rain expected in the next few days, the town of 10,000 residents is bracing for more destruction.
Experts predict that as Harvey heads south and east in the next few days, even areas much further inland will be soaked with as much as 40 inches of rain. Coastal flooding also remains a threat, as the already overflowing rivers continue to get deluged with rain. Texas Governor Greg Abbott fears that if the forecasts hold true, it will result in billions of dollars of property damage. Fortunately, since most residents in the path of the hurricane decided to evacuate to safer areas, the number of fatalities reported thus far is relatively small.
While the official hurricane season, the time when most tropical storms occur in the Atlantic, is from June 1 to November 30, the cyclones have been appearing much earlier since 2015. This year’s first tropical storm, Arlene, occurred in mid-April. Though there have been four tropical storms and two hurricanes since, none were as powerful as Harvey. Hopefully, nature has spent its fury on Texas, and the rest of the 2017 season will be uneventful.
Resources: CNN.com, weather.com, Npr.org, cnbc.com