HOUSTON - Hurricane Harvey has officially made landfall in Texas. The storm’s winds and heavy rain are affecting the Gulf Coast.
Severe Weather Team 2 chief meteorologist Glenn Burns said winds have already reached upwards of 135 mph near the eye of the storm. The hurricane hit as a Category 4 storm.
Severe Weather Team 2's Brian Monahan is heading to Texas for live reports from the hurricane zone on Saturday. We'll have complete coverage of the storm's destructive path, starting on Channel 2 Action News Saturday AM.
Hurricane Harvey gained strength throughout the day Friday.
“The water temperature is still in the middle 80s, so a lot of heat energy is driving that hurricane,” Burns said.
Burns said the eye wall is about 20 miles wide and wind gusts could reach up to 155 mph.
Burns said by Sunday, the storm will remain over Texas and will have sustained winds of about 70 mph, as a tropical storm, just west of Victoria, Texas.
President Donald Trump tweeted late Friday night that he signed a disaster declaration at the request of the governor of Texas.
At the request of the Governor of Texas, I have signed the Disaster Proclamation, which unleashes the full force of government help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2017
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Burns said the Houston metro could see 20-30 inches of rain through Monday afternoon. Burns said between the storm surge and a record high tide, there will be nowhere for all the rain to run off.
“If you had about a square acre of land and had 1 inch of rainfall on that, you would have about 27,000 gallons of water. With an estimated 35 inches of rain in many locations, one square acre would receive nearly 1 million gallons of water, and that water has nowhere to drain off,” Burns said.
Areas west of Victoria, Texas, will be in much better shape, with all of the water being able to flow off into the Gulf, Burns said.
Burns said areas between Victoria and Houston will see rain for days on end until the storm starts to make a turn to the north on Sept. 1.
“So, one week of rain, and rain, and rain is what they are facing in southeastern Texas,” Burns said.
Reports of damage began to emerge from Rockport, Texas, a coastal city of about 10,000 people that was directly in the path of Harvey when it came ashore.
Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth said by telephone that he had heard reports of a tree falling into a mobile home and roofs collapsing on houses. The city, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi, had peak wind surges of more than 125 mph (201 kph), according to the National Weather Service.
Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Sims said there are about 15 volunteer firefighters at the city’s fire station waiting for conditions to improve enough for their vehicles to safely respond to pleas for help.
“There’s nothing we can do at this moment. We are anxious to get out there and make assessments, but we’re hunkered down for now,” he said.
Harvey a 'life-threatening storm'
Forecasters labeled Harvey a "life-threatening storm" that posed a "grave risk" as millions of people braced for a prolonged battering that could swamp dozens of counties more than 100 miles inland.
Harvey grew quickly Thursday from a tropical depression into a Category 1 hurricane. Early Friday, the National Hurricane Center reported it had become a Category 2. Fueled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, it was then become a major Category 3 hurricane. Early Friday night it became a Category 4 storm.
The last storm of that category to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005 in Florida.
Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled New York and New Jersey in 2012, never had the high winds and had lost tropical status by the time it struck. But it was devastating without formally being called a major hurricane.
"We're forecasting continuing intensification right up until landfall," National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.
City Welcomes Harvey Evacuees
As Hurricane Harvey, which became a Category 4 storm Friday evening, headed toward land, hundreds of coastal residents fleeing the expected path of the storm arrived in San Antonio seeking shelter.
As of 7 p.m. Friday, about 700 evacuees had taken refuge in San Antonio, and that number was expected to rise. By midafternoon, 10 buses had already arrived from Robstown and four more were en route from Corpus Christi. Some 200 patients were brought here by 75 ambulances and a dozen medical buses.
Chief Larry Treviño, emergency operations coordinator for the city, said officials first check whether arriving evacuees need any medical attention. Then, they gather information from them, including where they live, before transporting them to shelters.
Meanwhile, the city’s Transportation & Capital Improvements Department has scheduled 80 first-responder employees on 12-hour shifts with another 120 employees on standby. The department is responsible for placing barricades at low water crossings and inspecting high-water detection areas and drainage facilities, according to a city press release.
CPS Energy also has released plans to stage 250 workers in five locations around the city.
VIA Metropolitan Transit planned to maintain service for as long as possible.
People fleeing Hurricane Harvey will not be asked about their immigration status at storm shelters, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press briefing at the state operations center Friday.
“Our main focus here, in a situation like this, is the safety and security and the protection of life. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure everybody is safe,” he said.
After speaking with President Donald Trump about the storm Thursday, Abbott on Friday morning sent him a letter requesting a presidential disaster declaration that would provide financial assistance to affected areas.
“Granting this request will provide Texans the additional resources needed to protect themselves, their property and rebuild their lives if necessary after Hurricane Harvey,” Abbott said.
The state has already spent more than $9 million preparing for the hurricane, a sum that does not include costs expended at the local or private level. “You can expected the cost is going to be far higher than that,” Abbott said.
Officials could not provide the number of residents estimated to have already evacuated or those who remain in the more than two dozen areas where mandatory evacuation orders are in place.
Shelters set up in San Antonio, and other inland cities, have the capacity to hold about 41,000 people, officials said on the call.
Abbott urged Texans who live in the affected areas to “strongly consider” evacuating. “If you have the ability to evacuate and go somewhere else for a little while, it would be good,” he said, but added that it’s up to local officials to make the call about whether to issue mandatory evacuation orders.
“I can be suggestive of what I would do. If I were living in the Houston region... I would decide to head to areas north of there,” he said.
Dozens of state officials and representatives from FEMA and the military are camped out in the state operations center, two floors below ground at the Texas Department of Public Safety, to manage storm response.
Associated Press writers Frank Bajak in Houston; Seth Borenstein and Catherine Lucey in Washington; Diana Heidgerd, Jamie Stengle and David Warren in Dallas; and videographer John Mone in Sugar Land contributed to this story.