Harvey Gains Strength As It Heads for Texas

Harvey Gains Strength As It Heads for Texas
National Weather Service
While Harvey has kept a steady pace toward the coast of just 10 miles an hour, it continues to pick up strength. Overnight, Harvey increased to a Category 2 hurricane, and as of 10 a.m., it boasted sustained winds of 110 miles an hour, about 115 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, and should be Category 3 by the time it hits land.

Storms have already begun in Houston, and forecasters have urged everyone to finish up any remaining preparations before things get serious. Harvey is supposed to make landfall Friday night, and while rain is expected to continue throughout the day, it's expected to get worse later in the day Saturday, carrying into Sunday and probably into Monday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Overpeck. NWS forecasts "devastating to catastrophic" flooding, with 18 to 24 inches of rainfall in the Houston region over the next several days. Sustained winds should be between 25 to 35 miles an hour with gusts up to 50 miles an hour with tropical-storm force.

"It's going to be a prolonged event," Overpeck said. "Harvey is expected to stall inland and then maybe move up along the coast early next week. That's what leaves things a little bit uncertain and a little bit tricky, and that's why were concerned about the higher rainfall. As the storm moves east, that's when we're going to start seeing the rain pile up."

Governor Greg Abbott already preemptively declared a state of disaster for 30 counties on Wednesday, and on Thursday deployed about 700 members of the Texas National Guard. The governor is expected to discuss state operations at a press conference at 12:30 today.

School closures are ongoing, and because storm conditions are already burgeoning along the coast and in the Houston region, some, such as Houston Community College, are closing earlier than usual today. Houston ISD which had planned to close at noon, moved that up by an hour this morning.

Overpeck said that, even if the 18 to 24 inches of rain are spread out through Tuesday, Houston's drainage system and bayous are likely going to be overworked if bands of rain keep hitting the area regularly.

"You get these continual bands over the same areas, and the drainage just can't keep up with that," he said. "Everything's trying to flow into Galveston Bay through the bayou system, but the bay is backed up with storm surge making things even worse, so you're going to have a large drainage problem."

Storm surge from Jamaica Beach to High Island is expected to be about 2 to 4 feet. The coast remains under a storm surge warning and eastern Harris County is under a storm surge watch.

We'll continue to update our weather coverage as the National Weather Service releases information.

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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn