BA­BIES PLUCKED FROM HUR­RI­CANE’ S PATH

Rock­port mayor tells those re­fus­ing to leave to mark their arm with a Sharpie pen so they can be iden­ti­fied if found dead.

Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

First in­juries were be­ing re­ported last night as powerful Hur­ri­cane Har­vey wreaked a trail of de­struc­tion across Texas, tear­ing down roofs, knock­ing down power lines and up­root­ing trees.

The hur­ri­cane is ex­pected to bring “cat­a­strophic” flood­ing and ma­jor power out­ages as it makes its way across the state and neigh­bours.

A worst case sce­nario is that the hur­ri­cane could hug the coast for days and stay strong enough to be a trop­i­cal storm through Wed­nes­day at least. Dur­ing this me­an­der­ing time, the storm will likely dump 60 to 90cm of rain, of­ten on ar­eas that don’t han­dle much smaller rain­fall amounts well.

Some­time early next week fore­cast­ers said it could go back into the warm Gulf of Mex­ico wa­ters, which pro­vide fuel, then turn back in for a po­ten­tial sec­ond hit on what may be an al­ready flooded Hous­tonGalve­ston area.

In Texas, a group was taken to a Rock­port jail for treat­ment af­ter the roof of a se­nior hous­ing com­plex col­lapsed, city man­ager Kevin Car­ruth told KIII-TV.

A high school par­tially caved in and the city’s his­toric down­town area suf­fered heavy dam­age to ve­hi­cles and build­ings as the fiercest hur­ri­cane to hit the US in more than 12 years be­gan ram­pag­ing through the state, cut­ting power to more than 120,000.

About 130 peo­ple were evac­u­ated from a Rock­port ho­tel that suf­fered “se­vere dam­age”, ac­cord­ing to Na­tional Weather Ser­vice re­port.

De­part­ment Chief Steve Sims said 15 vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers at the city’s fire sta­tion were wait­ing for con­di­tions to im­prove enough for their ve­hi­cles to safely travel and to as­sess the dam­age to the city of about 10,000 peo­ple.

“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.”

The mon­ster storm made land­fall as a cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane, 48km north­east of Corpus Christi, bring­ing se­vere winds as high as 215km/h.

Late last night it was down­graded to a cat­e­gory 1. Texas Gov­er­nor Greg a Ab­bott warned that the sys­tem would be “a very ma­jor dis­as­ter”, and the pre­dic­tions drew fear­ful com­par­isons to Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, one of the dead­li­est to strike the US.

Mayor Pa­trick Rios is­sued a chill­ing warn­ing to res­i­dents ig­nor­ing the in­struc­tion of “get out and get out now” and re­fus­ing to leave the coastal town of Rock­port.

Rios told those who re­fused to evac­u­ate with most of the town’s 9500 pop­u­la­tion to “mark their arm with a Sharpie [pen], put their so­cial se­cu­rity num­ber” so they can be iden­ti­fied if found dead.

More than 1m of rain is ex­pected to bat­ter the US Gulf Coast, and the heav­i­est rain­fall is an­tic­i­pated in San An­to­nio, Corpus Christi and Hous­ton, ac­cord­ing to the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (Fema).

The hur­ri­cane was down­graded to cat­e­gory 3 as it made a sec­ond land­fall on the north­east­ern shore of Copano Bay but the po­ten­tial for se­ri­ous dam­age once as­sess­ments can safely be made is se­vere.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple were urged to flee the mon­ster storm as Texas and Louisiana brace for mas­sive in­land flood­ing.

Of­fi­cials were ex­pect­ing to see ma­jor flood­ing from two di­rec­tions, and fore­cast­ers la­belled it a “lifethreat­en­ing storm”.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed a fed­eral dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion at the re­quest of Texas Gov­er­nor Greg Ab­bott to pro­vide fed­eral aid to those in the path of de­struc­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble.

“Their win­dow to evac­u­ate is rapidly com­ing to a close.” Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency director Brock Long

Spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee said the pres­i­dent was pre­par­ing to travel to Texas early next week to mon­i­tor the dam­age caused by the hur­ri­cane.

Lo­cal tele­vi­sion footage showed su­per­mar­ket aisles plucked bare, high­ways clogged with bumper-to­bumper traf­fic, and long lines snaking out­side gas sta­tions as the coun­try’s top emer­gency of­fi­cial urged coastal dwellers to get to safety.

“Texas is about to have a very sig­nif­i­cant dis­as­ter,” Fema director Brock Long told CNN. “Their win­dow to evac­u­ate is rapidly com­ing to a close.”

Corpus Christi — a ma­jor oil re­fin­ing cen­tre — is­sued vol­un­tary evac­u­a­tion or­ders, and the evac­u­a­tion was made manda­tory in the nearby coastal ham­lets of Port Arkansas and Arkansas Pass.

“For any­one who has not al­ready evac­u­ated, please hurry to do so,” the city of Portland, Texas, warned on its web­site in cap­i­tal let­ters.

Many res­i­dents were bent on sit­ting out the storm, how­ever.

In Corpus Christi peo­ple were

pack­ing sand­bags to pro­tect their homes from flood­ing.

Of­fi­cials in Hous­ton, the big­gest city in the path of the storm, can­celled school classes un­til to­mor­row al­though of­fi­cials said they did not an­tic­i­pate an evac­u­a­tion.

“Cat­a­strophic flood­ing ex­pected across por­tions of south­ern and south­east­ern Texas,” the NHC warned in its lat­est ad­vi­sory.

Hous­ton is braced for about 50cm of rain­fall, and the risk of dan­ger­ous flash flood­ing across the re­gion. Long said the most press­ing dan­ger was the storm surge — set to reach be­tween 1.8m and 3.7m above ground level in the worst-hit part of the Texas coast — but that many coun­ties in­land should also pre­pare for a “sig­nif­i­cant in­land flood event”.

Oone-third of the US re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity is po­ten­tially un­der threat, so sev­eral en­ergy com­pa­nies evac­u­ated per­son­nel from oil and gas plat­forms in the heart of the US Re­fin­ery Row.

One oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mex­ico has been evac­u­ated, as well as 39 manned pro­duc­tion plat­forms, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of Safety and En­vi­ron­men­tal En­force­ment, rep­re­sent­ing an es­ti­mated 9.5 per cent of oil out­put and 14.7 per cent of nat­u­ral gas out­put in the Gulf. “Har­vey’s great­est risk to re­fin­ers is not just wind dam­age to the re­finer­ies, but also the associated rain­fall and the po­ten­tial for elec­tric power fail­ure,” said James Wil­liams of WTRG Eco­nom­ics.

Should a re­fin­ery shut down, he said it could take a week to get it up and run­ning again.

In neigh­bour­ing Louisiana where the storm was fore­cast to hover for many days and could del­uge flood­prone New Or­leans, Gov­er­nor John Bel Ed­wards said he spoke with Pres­i­dent Trump who “of­fered his full sup­port”.

He is­sued an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion for his en­tire state, and hun­dreds of boats were made ready for po­ten­tial res­cues along with more than half a mil­lion sand­bags to hold back flood­wa­ters.

In New Or­leans, where Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina caused wide­spread flood­ing and killed more than 1800 peo­ple in 2005, mayor Mitch Lan­drieu said high-wa­ter res­cue ve­hi­cles and boats were at the ready — al­though there were no evac­u­a­tions planned.

“We just need to make sure that we’re pre­pared,” Lan­drieu said.

— news.com.au, AP, AAP

AP

Univer­sity stu­dents evac­u­ate.

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