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.
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
University students evacuate.