CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. — Residents of the Gulf Coast hunkered down late Friday amid dire warnings of a major natural disaster as Hurricane Harvey, having intensified rapidly into a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds, roared ashore just to the northeast of this South Texas city.
The National Hurricane Center reported at 10 p.m. CDT that the center of the eye of the cyclone had just crossed the Texas shoreline over the northern end of a barrier island about four miles east of the city of Rockport. Initial reports compiled by the National Weather Service said numerous structures in Rockport had been “destroyed” and described “buildings collapsed with people trapped inside.” These early reports, distributed on social media, remained sketchy as the storm raged into the middle of the night.
Here in Corpus Christi, a city of 320,000 people, lights flickered downtown, where many locals, out-of-town journalists and storm chasers had taken refuge in hotels. Local media reported roofs blown off homes.
The most intense winds appeared to stay just offshore as the hurricane crept northward, likely driving the worst of the storm surge flooding into the central Texas coast. City officials cautioned that the hurricane was expected to pound the city until well past midnight.
Harvey is easily the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Charley in 2004 and the first Category 3 or greater storm (winds of 111 mph or higher) since Wilma in 2005. Forecasters and government officials, scrambling to deal with a storm that popped up this week after being a mere tropical depression in the western Gulf of Mexico, warned of catastrophic flooding, ferocious winds and a storm surge that could reach 12 feet.
Soon after the outer bands of Harvey reached the South Texas coast, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Friday afternoon urged citizens to evacuate low-lying and coastal areas immediately. President Trump said Friday night that he has signed a disaster proclamation in Texas after Abbott sent him a written request.
“The storm surge, coupled with the deluge of rain, could easily lead to billions of dollars of property damage and almost certainly loss of life,” Abbott wrote. “It is not hyperbole to say that if the forecast verifies, Texas is about to experience one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the state.”
White House aides said that Trump would visit Texas next week.
Harvey is the first natural disaster faced by the Trump administration. Trump on Friday tweeted that he had spoken with the governors of Texas and Louisiana and was “here to assist as needed.”
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) gave the president a warning via Twitter: “keep on top of hurricane Harvey dont mke same mistake Pres Bush made w Katrina.”
Here in Corpus Christi, city and county officials said they are ready for the worst.