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Potential Worst Case Scenario in Texas with Harvey

[Hurricane Harvey from the International Space Station]

Even before making landfall, Hurricane Harvey will likely become one for the record books and could become a worst case scenario in some areas of Texas. Likely to be a major hurricane at landfall (category 3 strength), 120+ mph winds will batter the Texas coastline. The storm surge may climb above 12 feet in some areas, producing significant flooding and damage.

Updated forecast models now have the storm lingering through the region into most of next week. With a rich flow of humidity from the Gulf of Mexico, as much as 3 feet of rain could fall in some areas. Catastrophic flooding may occur, with some areas becoming inaccessible for a long period of time. A State of Disaster has been declared for 3o counties in Texas. Mandatory evacuations have been issued in several counties.

The National Weather Service in Corpus Christi advises of the following risks: “Structural damage to sturdy buildings, some with complete roof and wall failures. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Damage greatly accentuated by large airborne projectiles. Locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months. Numerous large trees snapped or uprooted along with fences and roadway signs blown over. Many roads impassable from large debris, and more within urban or heavily wooded places. Many bridges, causeways, and access routes impassable. Widespread power and communications outages.”

Harvey is located 115 miles southeast of Corpus Christi. Wind gusts are near 135 mph. The storm is moving slowly to the northwest at 10 mph. A Hurricane Warning is in effect from Port Mansfield to Sargent, TX, with a Tropical Storm Warning north of Sargent to High Island, TX and south of Port Mansfield to the Mouth of the Rio Grande. A Tropical Storm Watch continues south of the Mouth of the Rio Grande to Boca de Catan Mexico.

The latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center has the storm making landfall late tonight along the Texas Gulf Coast as a category 3 storm with 120 mph winds. The storm will slow down Saturday, and is likely to stall across Texas into early next week. Weakening to a tropical storm, the cyclone will meander through the Lone Star state, producing excessive rainfall amounts of up to 3 feet.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect from Port Mansfield to High Island, TX with a Storm Surge Watch is in effect for areas south of Port Mansfield to the Mouth of the Rio Grande. Surge levels may reach as high as 12 feet on the east side of the storm when Harvey makes landfall late tonight. The National Hurricane Center has heavy wording: “This is a life-threatening situation. Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for
other dangerous conditions. Promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials. Due to the slow motion of Harvey and a prolonged period of onshore flow, water levels will remain elevated for several days.”

“The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the northeast of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves. Surge-related flooding
depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances.”

From the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi: “Widespread deep inundation, with storm surge flooding greatly accentuated by powerful battering waves. Structural damage to buildings, with many washing away. Damage greatly compounded from considerable floating debris. Locations may be
uninhabitable for an extended period.”

Rain gauges may be overflowing in Texas into next week. As much as 3 feet may fall through Monday, with additional amounts into the middle of next week.  The National Hurricane Center states “Rainfall
of this magnitude will cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding.” The National Weather Service in Corpus Christi says “Flood waters can enter numerous structures within multiple communities, some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away. Numerous places where flood waters may cover escape routes. Streets and parking lots become rivers of raging water with underpasses submerged. Driving conditions become very dangerous. Numerous road and bridge closures with some weakened
or washed out.”

With high shear levels found in the spiral bands circulating around Harvey, tornadoes are possible as squalls race ashore.

Today and Saturday, the biggest impacts will be along the Texas Gulf coast. Dangerous hurricane aspects are likely from Galveston to Corpus Christi.

Due to the slow movement of Harvey, excessive rainfall will produce widespread flooding away from the coast. Houston, San Antonio, and Austin are all susceptible to significant flooding.

Stay tuned to WeatherNation on-air, online, and on social media for the latest updates on Hurricane Harvey.

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels

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