The National Hurricane Center now expects Tropical Depression Harvey to strengthen into a hurricane before slamming into Texas on Friday, prompting Governor Greg Abbott to declare a state of disaster for 30 counties in southeast Texas.
"Harvey is likely to bring multiple hazards, including heavy rainfall, storm surge and possible hurricane conditions to portions of the Texas coast," the Wednesday afternoon National Hurricane Center forecast states.
Abbott's disaster declaration includes the following counties: Aransas, Austin, Bee, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Brazoria, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Harris, Jackson, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Liberty, Live Oak, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, Waller, Wharton and Wilson counties.
On Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the Houston area and a Hurricane Watch for coastal counties to the south. The afternoon forecast also urged Gulf Coast residents to prepare for 10 to 15 inches of rain across the region, with isolated areas receiving as many as 20 inches, as well as a potential storm surge of 4 to 6 feet. Sustained wind speeds could reach 25 to 35 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph.
Of particular concern is a high pressure system over inland Texas, which meteorologists say will halt the progress of the low pressure Harvey. This means rains could pound towns and cities along the coast for days instead of hours, as would be the case if a storm moved quickly through. Meanwhile, the storm will continue to draw fuel from very warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
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"Harvey should decelerate while making landfall and move very slowly just inland [off] the coast," the forecast reads.
While Harvey is on track to make landfall near Matagorda, the wettest portion of a tropical storm or hurricane is its northeast quadrant — placing Houston in Harvey's crosshairs. Due to its slow speed — currently less than 10 mph — Harvey could continuously drench the Texas coast from Friday until Tuesday.
We will have continuous coverage of Harvey as it approaches Texas.