Hurricane Harvey intensified on Friday and was poised to hit the mainland United States this evening as the most powerful storm in more than a decade and authorities warned residents to shelter from life-threatening winds and flooding.
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, canceled a Friday concert in Houston, telling fans it didn’t want to risk anyone’s safety.
At a Willis, Texas, station, about 50 miles (77 km) 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 111-129 miles per hour (178-208 km/h) that can uproot trees, rip roofs off homes and disrupt utilities for days. It it maintains its intensity, it would be be the first major hurricane to hit the mainland United States since Hurricane Wilma struck Florida in 2005.
The storm was about 85 miles (140 km) off Corpus Christi and packing winds of 110 mph on Friday afternoon, the NHC said. The NHC’s latest tracking model shows the storm sitting southwest of Houston for more than a day, giving the nation’s fourth most populous city a double dose of rain and wind.
“Now is the time to urgently hide from the wind. Failure to adequately shelter may result in serious injury, loss of life, or immense human suffering,” the National Weather Service said.
“Life-threatening and devastating flooding expected near the coast due to heavy rainfall and storm surge,” the NHC said.
President Trump on Friday 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 canceled classes on Friday 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 on Friday 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 in an interview 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 on Friday, according to Flightaware.com, which tracks airline traffic.
Louisiana and Texas declared states of disaster, authorizing the use of state resources to prepare. President Donald Trump has been briefed and is ready to provide resources if needed, the White House said on Thursday.
The port of Houston, the nation’s busiest petrochemical port, closed its terminals at noon, and earlier halted inbound and outbound ship traffic on Friday. The city of Houston warned residents of flooding from close to 20 inches of rain over several days.
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