Texas has been left reeling by ‘catastrophic’ flooding and ‘widespread devastation’ on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Harvey after the monstrous storm slammed into the state leaving at least one person dead and another 14 injured.
Eight million residents have been warned the worst is yet to come, as hundreds of thousands of shell-shocked Texans on the Gulf Coast began to pick up the pieces after Harvey destroyed homes and businesses, left several injured and the state facing a clean-up bill of $40billion.
Texas utility companies said more than 338,000 were without power and the coastal town of Rockport, 30 miles north of Corpus Christi was hardest hit as the storm – which has weakened to a tropical storm with winds of 70mph – settled over southeast Texas.
It will sit over the Lone Star State well into next week pounding hundreds of miles of coastline with life-threatening storm surges, causing deadly walls of water to move inland.
Governor Greg Abbot warned Texans to stay away from rising water, noting that currents can be swifter than they appear.
‘Turn around, don’t drown. Don’t risk your life,’ he said at a news conference Saturday afternoon. ‘The most important thing all Texans can do is to put your life and the protection of your life first and foremost.’
With streets flooded and strewn with power lines and debris, authorities warned the storm’s most destructive powers were just beginning. Rainfall that will continue for days could dump more than five feet of water and inundate many communities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.
By dawn, more than 20 inches of rain had fallen in Corpus Christi and 16 inches of rain had fallen in Houston. In a press conferences, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said another 20 to 30 more inches of rain could fall and that ‘dramatic flooding’ remained the biggest concern. A disaster declaration has been made for 50 counties.
The hurricane made landfall around 10pm local time between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, as waves flooded onto roads, roofs were sent flying into the air and residents in the storm’s path were told to label themselves in case they died.
As of Saturday morning at least 14 people have been injured after the roof of a single story senior housing complex collapsed – but the extent of the injuries are unknown.
The mayor of Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm’s path, said his community took a blow ‘right on the nose’ that left ‘widespread devastation,’ including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.
One person in Rockport was confirmed dead Saturday afternoon as a result of a house fire in the storm’s first fatality. Officials say there are likely more victims as an estimated 5,000 residents remained during the hurricane.
Mayor Charles ‘CJ’ Wax told The Weather Channel that the city’s emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.
Ahead of the storm, residents were told to head north to cities such as San Antonio, which is a federally and state-designated evacuation center.
Texas state parks are open to hurricane evacuees to camp for free and 12 campgrounds and RV parks were made available for Hurricane Harvey evacuees. Some have even headed east to evacuation centers in Louisiana.
All seven counties on the Texas coast from Corpus Christi to the western end of Galveston Island were under mandatory evacuations from low-lying areas. Four counties ordered full evacuations and warned there was no guarantee of rescue for those choosing to stay behind.
President Donald Trump signed a disaster proclamation from the Camp David retreat and tweeted on Saturday morning that the government was ‘closely monitoring’ the storm.
‘We are leaving nothing to chance. City, State and Federal Govs. working great together!’ he wrote
To Texas Senator Chuck Grassley he tweeted: ‘[G]ot your message loud and clear. We have fantastic people on the ground, got there long before #Harvey. So far, so good!’
Governor Abbott warned that Hurricane Harvey would be ‘a major disaster’ before the storm barreled into the state with violent winds and massive rainfall, all on top of storm surges up to 13 feet.
Harvey is the strongest storm to hit the US in 12 years and the National Weather Service warned that this was the ‘start of many difficult days to come’.
Despite the storm’s weekend, forecasters say that Harvey’s impact will be devastating and leave areas ‘uninhabitable for weeks or months’.
The insured property losses from Hurricane Harvey were estimated to cost between $1billion and $2billion from wind and storm damage, according to CoreLogic.