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UPDATE: Tornadoes, Flooding, Biggest Threat To Houston Area Over The Weekend

A Tornado Watch is posted for the entire area until Sunday morning.

By Saturday evening, now tropical storm continued to weaken and drifting slowly toward the north, according to the National Hurricane Center (NOAA). 

The forecast showed a very slow movement for the next 5 days inland with two main potential problems for the Houston area: Catastrophic flooding and tornado threats. 

The flooding was expected to happen starting Sunday and into next week with periods of heavy rain from bands coming off the Gulf, the NOAA said. Meanwhile, Flash Flood Watches and Warnings were currently in effect for portions of southeast Texas, including several areas in the Houston area. 

Tornado threats, which started on Saturday afternoon in the greater Houston area, are projected to continue with rain bands coming onshore and moving inland. This has been an unexpected threat from Harvey for the Houston region, according to the weather expert blog Space City Weather. The Tornado Watch, which is  posted for the entire area through 1 AM on Sunday, has become a serious concern as much as floods, the blog said.

“We’ve just had numerous reports of confirmed tornadoes in northwest Harris County. We’ve had multiple other confirmed tornadoes since last night. While our focus remains on flooding, this tornado threat is a serious concern also. Make sure you have a weather radio or have the emergency notifications setting switched to “on” on your mobile device to get warnings for your location through tonight, as periodic tornadoes will be possible throughout the region”. Space City recommends.

Over most of Saturday, Harris County got an average of 4 to 5 inches  in the 12 hours after hurricane Harvey’s landfall in the middle coast of Texas, officials said on Saturday afternoon. That included the city of Houston.

A break in the rain was helping bayous recede though. Average rainfall in the afternoon was less than 1 inch, but the Harris County Flood Control District was reporting some street flooding from northwest to east parts of the county.

 
 

In Rockport, where Harvey made landfall as a category 3 hurricane on Friday night, a judge confirmed one death from Harvey in Rockport, Texas, and 12 to 14 injured on Saturday, according to the Austin American-Statesman. That would be Harvey’s first casualty.
 

 
 
 
 
Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm category by Saturday afternoon, but it was lingering over Texas, where the National Weather Service warned of 67 tornado watches.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Harris County was under a Flood Warning on Saturday until further notice. The National Hurricane Center forecast rainfall totals up to 15-30 inches, with isolated totals of up to 35 inches or more between Saturday and Wednesday. This will be a dangerous flooding event for most of the county, the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management warned.  

Houston’s bayous quickly swelled. “It’s going to be very hard for those bayou levels to go lower if it continues raining”, Sandra Ortiz with the Harris County Flood Control District said on Saturday morning. Once those bayous overflow, that water has to go somewhere, Ortiz said.  “So we want to tell residents to stay indoors if they don’t have to venture out because there will be a lot of street flooding, and then eventually make it down to our bayous.” 

And the worst is yet to come for Harris. That was the message from local emergency officials who were concerned that people might look outside and think the storm is over.

Francisco Sánchez, with Harris County’s Office of Emergency Management, says the next several days could bring disastrous flooding. “This isn’t a typical hurricane where it makes landfall and then dissipates and we move into recovery”, he explained.  “Right now for our area, we haven’t seen the worst that we’re going to see. So exercise some caution, exercise some patience and just know we will be getting severe rain. But because it doesn’t happen yet, doesn’t mean that it won’t.”

The storm also affected flights in Houston. The Houston Airport System said severe weather had caused more than 800 flight cancellations and nearly a 100 delays at area airports.

Airport spokesperson Bill Begley said travelers need to stay in touch with their airline for the latest information: “The best thing they can do is to stay in close contact with their air carrier. Their airline has the most up-to-date information on flight status.” 

 

 
 
By Saturday morning,  Centerpoint Energy said about 60,000 people were without power. That was down from 70,000 earlier in the day. There were  widespread outages in Katy and parts of Fort Bend county and much of Galveston.
Centerpoint estimated restoration of power to many neighborhoods would be complete by Saturday.
 
In Fort Bend County, officials said between 50 and 100 homes were damaged by a possible tornado overnight. In the first 24 hours of rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, parts of the area had already recorded 9 inches of rain.

Alan Spears, Deputy Emergency Management coordinator for Fort Bend County, said severe weather hit the Sienna Plantation subdivision around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday. 

“Evidently, this tornado cut a pretty wide swath through there. We’ve got road and bridge crews out there right now clearing up the roadways and cutting limbs and all that. And the Red Cross is on the way out there to set up a shelter – if it’s needed”, Spears said.

The National Weather Service was investigating and would determine if the storm was in fact a tornado.

 
 Galveston takes the damaging wind

Galveston County has dodged much of the damaging wind and flooding officials there had feared.

County Judge Mark Henry said that as of Saturday morning the area had seen very little storm surge and had logged more than 5 inches of rain.

“Our biggest concern is that we have about three to four more days of this. So five inches right now is manageable, but five inches every day for the next four days is going to become a problem for us”, Henry said.

He added that he was concerned Highway 87 in Galveston and along Bolivar Peninsula would become impassible, but that had not been the case by Saturday morning — although the ferry connecting the two does remained closed.

Henry said the area has only seen very isolated power outages.

 
 
 
 

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