HARI SREENIVASAN: Hello and thanks for joining us.
Once-mighty Hurricane Harvey is weakening and drifting slowly but dangerously over land. Forecasters warn the storm is still capable of generating “catastrophic” flooding as far as 100 miles inland. After making landfall overnight, Harvey was downgraded today from a Category 4 hurricane, with 130-mile-an-hour winds, to tropical storm status, still with very severe 75-mile-an-hour winds.
Harvey came ashore about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi as the strongest hurricane to hit Texas in almost 60 years. Harvey has already dumped 20 inches of rain in some places. There’s a report of one hurricane-linked death.
But the storm knocked out power to almost 300-thousand homes. Because of Harvey, officials say about a-quarter of gulf coast oil refinery production has been taken off-line.
Hurricane Harvey struck the town of Rockport, northeast of Corpus Christi, as a Category 4 hurricane late last night. By dawn, nearly 20 inches of rain had fallen. The heavy winds caused damage to this coastal community of 10,000 people.
After the roof of this senior center collapsed, some of its residents were evacuated to the county jail.
Despite the warnings, the storm’s severity caught some off-guard.
MANDY LEE: we’re kind of just hoping. We didn’t think it would end up a Category 4.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Near Rockport, the Coast Guard sent helicopters to rescue the crews of three tugboats that had sent mayday notifications.
Nearby Aransas Pass was under a mandatory evacuation order, but some residents stayed behind.
ALBERT GUZMAN: It was pretty scary. It felt like 150 mile an hour winds. I mean it was whipping pretty good.
Albert Guzman prepared by moving all of his possessions into a storage container.
ALBERT GUZMAN: The storage pod’s got everything I own in it. The house is empty. I got three cats and a rabbit, and a girlfriend.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In Corpus Christi, the closest major city at the center of the storm, there were heavy winds and downed lamp posts. But the large marina was relatively unscathed.
About 75 miles north of Corpus Christi, the storm demolished structures in the town of Victoria. The mayor estimated that 65 percent of the town’s 65,000 residents didn’t leave, despite the mandatory evacuation order.
Farther north, near Houston, Harvey was blamed for what’s believed to be a tornado that touched down in the nearby town of Katy.
President Trump signed a disaster declaration for Texas before the storm hit the coast last night, and in a tweet early this morning he said he was “closely monitoring #hurricaneharvey from camp David. We are leaving nothing to chance. City, state, and federal govs. Working great together!
The White House said later Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met today with the cabinet and senior administration officials to discuss the federal response.
Now-tropical storm Harvey is now headed inland in the direction of San Antonio, before it’s expected to turn around and start heading back toward the coast by tomorrow morning.
Harvey is expected to hover over the Texas coast until the middle of next week.
In a news conference this afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he had activated 1,800 Texas service members and warned the worst of Harvey may still be ahead.
TEXAS GOV. GREG ABBOTT: In various key regions ranging from Corpus Christi to the Houston area, perhaps as much as 20 to 30 more inches of rain could be coming down. That is coming down on already saturated ground and already filled-up waterways, whether it be creeks, bayous, or riverways. And so there is the potential for very dramatic flooding.