Hurricane Harvey Strengthens To Category 3 Storm

HOUSTON (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Harvey as it takes aim at the Texas coast (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Harvey has powered up to 125 mph (201 kph) as it bears down on the Texas coast, with its eye about 60 miles (95 kilometers) east-southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas.

The center said in its Friday afternoon update that the hurricane is traveling northwest at 10 mph (16 kph).

Hurricane force winds are not quite ashore but are within a couple dozen miles of land. Tropical storm force winds have already been measured in Aransas Pass, Texas.

The hurricane center said some additional strengthening is possible before Harvey makes landfall overnight.

4 p.m.

Texas officials say they have no estimates on how many people along the coast are heeding warnings to evacuate before Hurricane Harvey makes landfall.

But Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday continued insisting that too many people are staying put. He urged anyone with the ability to flee the Gulf Coast to do so but stopped short of criticizing local officials who haven’t ordered mandatory evacuations.

State emergency officials have identified at least eight counties and seven cities that have issued mandatory evacuations. More than a dozen others are under voluntary evacuations.

Nim Kidd is the chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. He says there’s no good way of telling how many people have evacuated and that congested highways along the Gulf Coast are a poor indicator of whether enough families are leaving.

3:50 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump is making plans to travel to Texas early next week to monitor the effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president is planning to go to Texas next week as the Gulf region prepares for the hurricane to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday as a powerful Category 3 hurricane.

The president was briefed Friday by the heads of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security officials on the storm.

The Trump administration is encouraging people in the path of the hurricane to heed the advice and orders of local and state officials.

3:45 p.m.

As Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas coast, motorists were lining up in to fill up their gas tanks.

At one convenience store in Houston’s Meyerland neighborhood on Friday, at least 12 cars were lined up to fill up their gas tanks. A steady stream of customers entered and exited the store, buying everything from soda to chips.

Brent Borgstedte said it was the fourth gas station he’d gone to Friday to try and fill up his son’s car. The 55-year-old said he’d already stocked up on supplies to ride out the storm and the flooding that is predicted for the Houston area.

Borgstedte said, “I don’t think anybody is really that worried about it. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve been through several hurricanes.”

Borgstedte said the heavy rainfall could be the big problem for his neighborhood, which has a history of flooding, including the past two years.

Borgstedte, who is an insurance agent, said he expects to be very busy next week.

3:35 p.m.

Texas officials say shelters that are opening statewide as Hurricane Harvey barrels toward the coast won’t ask arriving families about their immigration status.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday the main focus is on safety and “the protection of life.” Harvey is set to make landfall a week before a new “sanctuary city” crackdown in Texas signed by Abbott takes effect.

The law allows police officers to ask people about their immigration status during routine stops. It also threatens police chiefs and sheriffs with jail time if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Texas’ largest cities, including Dallas and Houston, have asked a federal judge to stop the law from taking effect Sept. 1

Abbott also expressed no concerns about inland U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints hampering evacuation efforts near the Texas-Mexico border.

Harvey has been upgraded to a dangerous Category 3 hurricane. It’s expected to make landfall in Texas late Friday or early Saturday morning.

3:30 p.m.

Corpus Christi officials say American Airlines has joined other airlines in canceling all flights in and out of the city’s airport through the weekend as Hurricane Harvey approaches Texas.

The city said in a news release Friday afternoon that American has followed United and Southwest Airlines in canceling all flights through the weekend at Corpus Christi International Airport.

The city had earlier Friday that all flights were being canceled for the rest of the day.

The hurricane has been upgraded to a dangerous Category 3 hurricane. It’s expected to make landfall in Texas late Friday or early Saturday morning.

3:15 p.m.

The mayor of Corpus Christi is warning residents about the dangers of flooding and told them to be aware of warnings issued by officials as Hurricane Harvey heads toward Texas.

Mayor Joe McComb said at a news conference Friday, “If you understand what water can do when it’s rising fast and moving — it can be deadly.”

He said he doesn’t know how many people remained in low-lying areas after voluntary evacuations were advised, but he thought there had been a positive response.

Harvey was upgraded to a dangerous Category 3 hurricane. The storm is expected to make landfall Friday night or Saturday morning on the middle Texas coast.

McComb says he had seen a lot of traffic from people leaving town, which also likely included those outside of low-lying areas.

He says, “People’s lives are our main function. Property is number two at this point.”

2:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump is encouraging the public to prepare for Hurricane Harvey before it makes landfall in Texas.

Trump says on Twitter that he’s encouraging “everyone in the path of (hash)HurricaneHarvey to heed the advice & orders of their local and state officials.” His tweet included a link with more information on the storm.

Harvey was upgraded to a dangerous Category 3 hurricane. The storm is expected to make landfall Friday night or Saturday morning on the middle Texas coast.

Trump was briefed on the storm earlier in the day and was expected to monitor Harvey during the weekend at Camp David.

2:50 p.m.

A water management official says large “supersacks” of sand are being used to reinforce a damaged section of floodwall east of Houston and will be enough to withstand the storm surge Hurricane Harvey will bring.

Phil Kelley is general manager of Jefferson County Drainage District Number 7. He says there are also 20 pumping stations in the area of Port Arthur, along the Louisiana border, to absorb and redirect stormwater that floods the area.

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey has strengthened to a Category 3 storm. It’s forecast to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.

Officials discovered early this month that a section of the concrete wall in Port Arthur was damaged and cracked. The floodwall is part of a hurricane flood protection system that safeguards Port Arthur and several surrounding cities.

Kelley said Friday that he’s confident the floodwall is reinforced enough to withstand a storm surge of up to 10 feet. (3 meters)

He says the area is “not at the mercy of the bayous or the tides” like other places and that the drainage district “can force our stormwater out of here.”

2:40 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center is practically running out of scary words to describe Hurricane Harvey and get people to get out of its way.

The center has called Harvey “life-threatening,” “dangerous” and “catastrophic.” The head of the National Weather Service talked of “grave risk.”

National Hurricane Center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen says, “We’re using every synonym we can find in the book. We hope they realize that this can kill them. And they need to get out of its way.”

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey has strengthened to a Category 3 storm. The center says Harvey has maximum wind speeds of 120 mph (193 kph). It’s forecast to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.

2:20 p.m.

The National Hurricane Center says tide gauges off the coast of Texas indicate that storm surge is already occurring near Corpus Christi and Port Aransas.

That news comes as the National Hurricane Center says Harvey has strengthened to a Category 3 storm.

The center says Harvey has maximum wind speeds of 120 mph (193.11 kph) as the powerful storm churns off the Texas coast. Forecasters are labeling it a “life-threatening storm.”

It’s forecast to make landfall on the mid-Texas coast late Friday or early Saturday.

9:19 a.m.

Conditions were deteriorating along Texas’s Gulf Coast on Friday as Hurricane Harvey strengthened and slowly moved toward the state, with forecasters warning that evacuations and preparations “should be rushed to completion.”

Millions of people were bracing for a prolonged battering from the hurricane, which could be the fiercest such storm to hit the U.S. in nearly a dozen years. Forecasters labeled Harvey a “life-threatening storm” that posed a “grave risk,” saying it could swamp several counties more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) inland.

Fueled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, the storm now has maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (177 kph), just shy of the benchmark for a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center expect the storm to reach that mark before it makes landfall late Friday or early Saturday.

Brock Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told “Good Morning America” early Friday that Harvey was a “very serious” threat and that the window for evacuating was quickly closing.

“Texas is about to get hit by a major hurricane,” Long said. “We’re going to see significant rainfall over the next three days. There’s going to be damage.”

Landfall was predicted along the central Texas coast, between Port O’Connor and Matagorda Bay. The stretch of coastline spans about 30 miles (48 kilometers) roughly 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi.

The center reports the storm has the potential to produce winds hitting 125 mph (201 kph) and storm surges of 12 feet (4 meters).

“We’re forecasting continuing intensification right up until landfall,” National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

Harvey grew quickly Thursday from a tropical depression into a Category 1 hurricane, and then Category 2 hurricane early Friday. The last storm to reach Category 3 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.

All seven Texas counties on the coast from Corpus Christi to the western end of Galveston Island have ordered mandatory evacuations of tens of thousands of residents from all low-lying areas. Officials in four counties ordered full evacuations and warned there was no guarantee of rescue for people staying behind.

Voluntary evacuations have been urged for Corpus Christi and for the Bolivar Peninsula, a sand spit near Galveston where many homes were washed away by the storm surge of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

On Thursday, Texas officials expressed concern that not as many people are evacuating compared with previous storms.

“A lot of people are taking this storm for granted thinking it may not pose much of a danger to them,” Gov. Greg Abbott told Houston television station KPRC. “Please heed warnings and evacuate as soon as possible.”

Abbott has activated about 700 members of the state National Guard ahead of Harvey making landfall.

Harvey’s effect is expected to be broad: The hurricane center said large storm surges could be expected as far north as Morgan City, Louisiana, some 400 miles (644 kilometers) away from the anticipated landfall.

And once it comes ashore, the storm is expected to stall, dumping copious amounts of rain for days in areas like flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth most-populous city, and San Antonio.

State transportation officials were considering when to turn all evacuation routes from coastal areas into one-way traffic arteries headed inland. John Barton, a former deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, predicted state officials will do so before the storm hits. But storms change paths, and if contraflow starts too early, supplies such as extra gasoline needed to support impacted areas can’t get in, he said.

This would be the first hurricane for Bethany Martinez, who is pregnant and has two sons, ages 5 and 6, who were with grandparents in Austin. Asked about her demeanor, Martinez said: “Afraid.”

She’s a front desk clerk at a Holiday Inn Express at Port Aransas. “We are closing down,” Martinez said of the 74-room hotel a couple blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. It was about two-thirds full before all guests were cleared out.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi was airlifting at least 10 critically ill, mostly premature infants from its neonatal intensive care unit to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. They were expected to arrive by early Friday. Cook transport director Debbie Boudreaux said the infants were being moved inland for fear that power outages might disable their ventilators.

Harvey would be the first significant hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 brought winds of 110 mph (177 kph) to the Galveston and Houston areas, inflicting $22 billion in damage. It would be the first big storm along the middle Texas coast since Hurricane Claudette in 2003 caused $180 million in damage.

It’s taking aim at the same vicinity as Hurricane Carla, the largest Texas hurricane on record. Carla came ashore in 1961 with wind gusts estimated at 175 mph and inflicted more than $300 million in damage. The storm killed 34 people and forced about 250,000 people to evacuate.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump was “briefed and will continue to be updated as the storm progresses.”

In Houston, one of the nation’s most flood-prone cities, Bill Pennington prepared his one-story home for what he expected would be its third invasion of floodwaters in as many years and the fifth since 1983.

“We know how to handle it. We’ll handle it again,” Pennington said he told his nervous 9-year-old son.

Dozens were in lines Thursday at a Corpus Christi Sam’s Club, at home improvement stores and supermarkets. Alex Garcia bought bottled water, bread and other basics in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land after dropping his daughter off at college. He said grocery items were likely more available in Houston than back home in Corpus Christi, where Garcia, a beer distributor salesman, said stores were “crazy.”

“We’ll be selling lots of beer,” he laughed.

In Galveston, where a 1900 hurricane went down as the worst in U.S. history, City Manager Brian Maxwell said he was anticipating street flooding and higher-than-normal tides.

“Obviously being on an island, everybody around here is kind of used to it.”

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