As virus cases spike, Hanna thumps Texas

Hur­ri­cane could bring flood­ing, spawn tor­na­does

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

COURTNEY SACCO/COR­PUS CHRISTI CALLER-TIMES

Peo­ple try to walk Satur­day in Cor­pus Christi, Texas. Hur­ri­cane Hanna made land­fall south of there in Port Mans­field.

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