At least five people have died following Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas late Friday and brought a deluge of rain, power outages and flooding to the state.
The announcement came as the National Hurricane Center downgraded the hurricane to a tropical storm and as emergency crews, including more than 1,800 service members, spanned out in Corpus Christi and elsewhere around the state.
Thousands of homes were without power in parts of Texas, including at least 69,000 households in Houston, according to CenterPoint Energy, which provides power to 2.4 million customers.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said during a news conference Saturday that the greatest threat that residents of his state now face is widespread flooding, which is expected to continue in the coming days.
“We want to do everything we possible can to keep people out of rising water,” Abbott said, in part by issuing “constant warnings to the public about being vigilant.”
At least 1,400 people are now staying at 24 Red Cross shelters, with 42 more locations on standby. Another 1,500 people have been moved to state parks. More than 100 bus trips have taken evacuees to safer ground, Abbott said.
The National Hurricane Center downgraded Hurricane Harvey to a Category 1 hours after it descended on the Texas coast late Friday night, unleashing 130 mph winds and a torrent of rain.
The storm, initially categorized as a Category 4 hurricane, knocked out power to thousands of homes as the authorities continued to assess the full extent of the damage.
The hurricane touched down outside the city of Corpus Christi and was the strongest to hit the U.S. in more than 10 years before it weakened, moving farther inland over southeastern Texas, where it continued to bring life-threatening storm surge and winds of 90 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Friday that he had signed a disaster declaration for the state, allowing federal funding and support.
Hurricane Harvey is expected to linger over Texas during the next several days, producing as much as 3 feet of rain in portions of the state, according to the National Weather Service.
Abbott on Friday said the state was working with federal and local authorities to address the fallout from the hurricane.
“I encourage Texans to continue heeding all warning from local officials,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
In the hard-hit city of Rockport, which sat in the eye of the hurricane about 30 miles outside Corpus Christi, extensive damage consumed homes, businesses and schools. Images and videos posted to social media showed downed power lines and trees along with flooded yards as residents who remained began to survey the ruins.
— Reed Timmer (@ReedTimmerAccu) August 26, 2017
The Rockport Volunteer Fire Department requested airboats to begin search and rescue efforts. And the city’s mayor, Charles Wax, told CNN the storm left “widespread devastation.”
“We’ve already taken a severe blow from the storm but we’re anticipating another one,” he said.
The Corpus Christi Police Department described heavy road debris and traffic light outages.
“Please be patient. Let us get things safe for your return,” the department posted on Twitter.
And in Galveston early Saturday, torrential rains and whipping winds froze traffic along roadways as emergency crews prepared for major flooding. Power outages were also reported.
“If you must drive through high water, please drive slow to avoid pushing water into a home or business,” the city posted on Twitter.