Hurricane Harvey

Harvey Downgraded To A Tropical Storm; Expected To Bring Serious Flooding To Texas

Updated at 1 :35 p.m. The National Weather Service has downgraded Hurricane Harvey to a tropical storm.

The view of Hurricane Harvey from the International Space Station on Saturday, August 26, 2017.

Updated at 1:35 p.m.

The National Weather Service has downgraded Hurricane Harvey to a tropical storm. As it continues to linger over Texas, state officials are urging Texans to expect persistent rains and underscore the potential for life-threatening floods for the next few days across the state. Hundreds of thousands are without power along the coast, where cleanup efforts are just beginning.

Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, just before 10 p.m. Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds sustained at 130 mph. It weakened once it hit land, with winds decreasing to 85 mph, and was downgraded to a Category 1 earlier in the day on Saturday. As of 1 p.m. Saturday, the storm was 60 miles west of San Antonio, moving at around 2 mph.

Ten to 20 inches of rain are expected east of I-35, the National Weather Service says. Five to 10 inches are possible along the I-35 corridor. Isolated areas could see as much as 40 inches, especially south of I-10.

Harvey Trajectory

The NWS says rain bands from Hurricane Harvey will hit Austin and San Antonio at around 1 p.m., bringing the highest winds and heaviest rains. The LCRA Hydromet reported the area has seen 1 to nearly 3.8 inches of rain since midnight. The city announced that all parks, recreation sites and public libraries would close at 4 p.m. today because of the deteriorating weather, and is urging drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

While a flash flood watch remains in effect for the Austin area, the National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Onion Creek, which is topping nearly 12 feet. However, the City of Austin says it’s unlikely that flooding will impact any property.

“[We will be] monitoring creek levels and so forth, so that we can – in a very timely fashion – be able to go out into the neighborhood and take the appropriate actions to warn or evacuate as that call is made,” Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano said.

The City of Austin Transportation Department has closed Red River Street between Cesar Chavez and Third streets.

The storm is moving northwest and is going to “meander” over the middle Texas coast – including Houston, Galveston and Victoria – over the weekend, the NWS said.

Tornado watches also have been issued for parts of the middle and upper Texas coast.

Emergency personnel report damage to buildings in coastal communities including Rockport. NPR reports that as many as 10 people were injured when the roof of a senior housing complex caved in.

Russell Lewis, NPR’s Southern Bureau chief, who was in Corpus Christi overnight, reports that things are much calmer this morning.

“It was amazing to hear the amount of debris hitting the hotel that we were staying at,” he said on Weekend Edition Saturday. “We’re right on Shoreline Boulevard, overlooking the bay here in Corpus Christi. We’re on the 15th floor, and just all night long you could feel the windows rattling, you could hear the windows rattling, you could feel the building swaying.”

He said even though it was dark last night, “you could see sheets of rain and water moving sideways.”

Police in Corpus Christi reported a tremendous amount of debris and power lines down in the roads, Lewis said. Officials also warned residents not to drink tap water or flush their toilets because wastewater treatment plants had lost power.

NPR’s Russell Lewis describes the scene in Corpus Christi

Gov. Greg Abbott preemptively declared a state of disaster in 30 counties on Thursday and requested a disaster declaration from President Donald Trump, who approved the declaration Friday evening as the storm neared landfall. The declaration will allow federal money to flow to affected areas.

Abbott was briefed at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s State Operations Center in Austin just after noon on Saturday. In an announcement after the briefing, he added 20 additional counties to the state’s disaster declaration. As many as 338,000 Texans along the coast are without power, the governor said.

He also pledged to send as many as 1,800 state service members to the coast to assist in relief efforts, and said that Texas state parks are prepared to accommodate as many as 1,500 evacuees.

Abbott is expected to join Austin Mayor Steve Adler on a tour of one of the city’s shelters tonight.

Austin officials say they’re prepared to open more shelters if local residents are displaced by flooding. The city opened two shelters for hurricane evacuees – at Delco Center and LBJ/LASA High School – on Friday. LBJ/LASA was on “standby” Saturday morning because of a lack of demand.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was on track to be the most powerful to hit the U.S. in 12 years. Hurricane Wilma, a Category 5 storm, hit southern Florida in 2005, causing more than $20 billion in damage.

Copyright 2017 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

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