Tropical Storm Harvey is strengthening much faster than expected and is now forecast to make landfall in Texas as a major category three hurricane, forecasters say, urging residents to finish preparations within hours.
Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center, said on Thursday morning that data from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicated that Harvey is strengthening rapidly while the cyclone’s structure has improved markedly.
“With Harvey now strengthening at a faster rate than indicated in previous advisories, the intensity forecast has become quite concerning,” Berg said. “Water vapor images indicate that the cyclone’s outflow is expanding – indicative of low shear – and Harvey will be moving over a warm eddy of high oceanic heat content in the western Gulf of Mexico in about 24 hours.”
This suggests Harvey will continue to strengthen rapidly as it moves towards the coast of Texas. Harvey is now expected to become a hurricane on Thursday night and strengthen into a major category three hurricane on Friday, just hours before the storm makes landfall.
“[Harvey] is now forecast to be a major hurricane at landfall, bringing life-threatening storm surge, rainfall, and wind hazards to portions of the Texas coast,” Berg warned. “Preparations to protect life and property should be completed by tonight, as tropical-storm-force winds will first arrive in the hurricane and storm surge warning areas on Friday.”
As of 10 a.m. CT on Thursday, Harvey was located about 365 miles (590 kilometers) southeast of Corpus Christi in Texas, moving towards the northwest at a speed of 10 miles (17 kilometers) per hour. Its maximum sustained winds are near 65 miles (100 kilometers) per hour with higher gusts.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Port Mansfield to Matagorda, a storm surge warning is in effect from Port Mansfield to San Luis, and a hurricane watch is in effect from south of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande.
“On the forecast track, Harvey will approach the middle Texas coast on Friday and make landfall Friday night or early Saturday, and then stall near the middle Texas coast through the weekend,” Berg said.
Harvey is expected to cause flooding across much of the Texas coast from heavy rainfall of 12 to 20 inches (30 to 50 cm), with isolated amounts as high as 30 inches (76 cm), from Friday through early next week. Storm surge flooding could reach heights of 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3 meter) above ground level at the coast between the north entrance of the Padre Island National Seashore and Sargent.
On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott preemptively 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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