As virus cases spike, Hanna thumps Texas
Hurricane could bring flooding, spawn tornadoes
Hurricane Hanna roared ashore onto the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday, bringing winds that lashed the shoreline with rain and storm surge, and even threatening to bring possible tornadoes to a part of the country trying to cope with a spike in coronavirus cases.
The first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall around 5 p.m. CDT about 15 miles north of Port Mansfield, which is about 130 miles south of Corpus Christi. As of Saturday evening, it had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.
Many parts of Texas, including where Hanna came ashore, have been dealing with a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, but local officials said they were prepared for whatever the storm might bring.
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb said Saturday that he had seen some
residents doing last-minute shopping for supplies, but warned if that hadn’t been done already, people should stay home and ride out the storm.
“We’ve been staying at home for five months because of the corona(virus). So staying home doesn’t sound real popular, but right now this is a real important matter,” McComb said, adding that residents should remember to wear masks if they have to evacuate.
Sherry Boehme, who lives in a condo along the beach in Corpus Christi, said the storm’s approach had increased the anxiety she has felt during the pandemic. She has mostly stayed at home because of health issues related to chronic lung disease.
“It’s almost like a double whammy to us,” Boehme, 67, said by phone. “I think it’s made a lot of people nervous. We’ll get through it. Everybody is good and strong and sticks together.”
First responders in Corpus Christi proactively placed barricades near intersections to have them ready to go if streets began to flood, McComb said. More than 35,000 people throughout South Texas, including Corpus Christi, Harlingen and Brownsville, were without power early
Saturday evening, according to AEP Texas.
Corpus Christi is in Nueces County, where health officials made headlines recently when they revealed that 60 infants tested positive for COVID-19 from July 1 to July 16.
In Cameron County, which borders Mexico and where Brownsville is located, more than 300 confirmed new cases have been reported almost daily for the past two weeks, according to state health figures. The past week has also been the county’s deadliest of the pandemic.
The main hazard from Hanna was expected to be flash flooding. Forecasters said Hanna could bring 6 to 12 inches of rain through Sunday night — with isolated totals of 18 inches — in addition to coastal swells that could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
Coastal states scrambled this spring to adjust emergency hurricane plans to account for the virus, and Hanna loomed as the first big test.
South Texas officials’ plans for any possible rescues, shelters and monitoring of the storm will have the pandemic in mind and incorporate social distancing guidelines and mask wearing.
Gov. Greg Abbott said Saturday that some sheltering would take place in hotel rooms so people could be separated.
“We cannot allow this hurricane to lead to a more catastrophically deadly event by stoking additional spread of COVID-19 that could lead to fatalities,“Abbott said.
Various resources and personnel to respond to the storm were on standby across the state, including search-and-rescue teams and aircraft. Mobile teams that can continue testing for COVID-19 were also being deployed.
Abbott said he has issued a disaster declaration for 32 counties in Texas and had asked the federal government to approve a similar declaration.
Tornadoes were also possible Saturday for parts of the lower to middle Texas coastal plain, forecasters said. A hurricane warning remained in effect for Port Mansfield to Mesquite Bay, which is north of Corpus Christi, and a tropical storm warning was in effect from Port Mansfield south to Barra el Mezquital, Mexico, and from Mesquite Bay north to High Island, Texas.
Meanwhile, Hawaii geared up to face a Hurricane Douglas that threatened to pummel the islands with dangerous surf, strong winds and flash floods even as residents grappled with escalating virus cases.
Luke Meyers, the administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, urged people to get ready by learning about the hazards where they live.
“We know that things are going to get wet, things are going to blow and things are going to slide,” Meyers said.
The National Weather Service on Saturday issued a hurricane warning for the island of Oahu, where the state’s largest city, Honolulu, is located. The Big Island and Maui remain in a hurricane watch.
Maximum sustained winds have decreased and were about 90 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane by midday Saturday. The storm is expected to be near the main Hawaiian islands late Saturday and move over the state Sunday and Monday.
President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Hawaii on Saturday.
People try to walk Saturday in Corpus Christi, Texas. Hurricane Hanna made landfall south of there in Port Mansfield.