Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas late Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane. As the storm drifts inland, winds are diminishing, but remain dangerous, with hurricane force wind gusts still possible near the storm core today. The storm surge threat along the coast is not over, as strong onshore flow southeast of Harvey’s center could keep water levels well above normal for some time yet, and a Storm Surge Warning remains in effect for a portion of the Texas coastline.
While Harvey will weaken like any hurricane that moves over land, this unfortunately is only the beginning of the flooding threat for SE Texas. Hurricanes can drop copious rainfall for days after landfall, and in this case, Harvey is not expected to move much at all over the next several days. Current forecasts suggest that Harvey could be barely 100 miles from its current location by next Thursday. This is forecast to result in heavy rainfall of unprecedented magnitude for such a large area, with widespread storm totals of 15-30 inches, and isolated amounts up to 40 inches. This will likely result in catastrophic flooding in portions of SE Texas. Rainfall and flooding can vary greatly from place to place, and some locales will be luckier than others, but it’s not possible to know in advance which specific locations will see the worst problems. Don’t drive in your car if there is a flood warning for your area or it is raining heavily. The majority of flood-related fatalities are due to people getting stuck in their vehicles. You are vastly safer inside a structure.
Isolated tornadoes are also possible, especially in the outer bands north and east of Harvey’s center, and some tornadoes have indeed been reported in the Houston area since last night. These tornadoes are typically harder to see coming than “normal” tornadoes, as they are often moving quickly and wrapped in rain. Keep your weather radio on listening for tornado and flash flood warnings.
Do not assume that it’s safe to begin moving around and driving until your local officials say so. This is not a normal storm, and your local area could be hazardous for many days.
Hang in there and stay safe everyone. There is a long road ahead.