Harvey strengthens into a tropical storm, heads for Texas

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Harvey has regained strength and is now a tropical storm, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on late Wednesday. The storm is expected to become a hurricane before making landfall in Texas.

An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft was sent to Harvey on Wednesday evening and recorded tropical storm-force winds. The maximum sustained winds were estimated to be 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour, with higher gusts.

As of 11 p.m. CT, the center of Harvey was located about 440 miles (705 kilometers) southeast of Port Mansfield in Willacy County, Texas, or 500 miles (810 kilometers) south-southeast of the community of Port O’Connor in Calhoun County. It is moving towards the northwest at a speed of 2 miles (4 kilometers) per hour.

The National Hurricane Center expects Harvey will strengthen into a hurricane on Friday evening as it approaches the Texas coast, where it is expected to make landfall on late Friday night or early Saturday morning. As a result, a hurricane watch is in effect from north of Port Mansfield to San Luis Pass, and a storm surge watch from Port Mansfield to High Island.

“A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, in the indicated locations during the next 48 hours,” the National Hurricane Center said. It marks the first time that the center has issued a storm surge watch, which is a new type of alert.

In addition to the hurricane watch and storm surge watch, a tropical storm watch is also in effect from Boca De Catan in Mexico to Port Mansfield in Texas, and from north of San Luis Pass to High Island.

Earlier on Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott reemptively declared a State of Disaster for 30 counties which are most at risk. “Preemptively declaring a state of disaster will allow Texas to quickly deploy resources for the emergency response effort in anticipation of the storm’s hazardous conditions,” he said.

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