Harvey downgraded to tropical storm, tornado hits near Houston
PHOENIX — Hurricane Harvey was downgraded to Tropical Storm Harvey on Saturday, but a Houston-area community saw a tornado touch down.
The tornado wound through the Houston suburb of Cypress, damaging several homes and buildings but causing no apparent injuries.
After days of increasing in strength, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast on Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
The hurricane moved onshore around 8 p.m. Arizona time between Port Arnsas and Port O’Connor. It was designated as a Category 4 storm when it hit landfall.
— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) August 26, 2017
The hurricane made landfall about 35 miles from Corpus Christi, the city that was expected to be the closest to the center of the storm, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Sunday that there had been one fatality confirmed. A woman died Satruday evening after getting out of her car when it drove into a flooded street.
Turner said that as of 5 p.m. on Sunday, Houston police and fire departments had received nearly 6,000 calls for rescues and had rescued more than 1,000 people. Many of these rescues were of people trapped on their
roofs or in their attics.
Turner said 22 aircrafts were working to help identify people stranded on roofs. Sixteen of those aircrafts are from U.S. Coast Guard.
In addition, 35 boats and 93 dump trucks were being used by the city for high water rescues.
The mayor also defended his decision not to order an evacuation.
“The decision that we made was a smart one. It was in the best interest of Houstonians. It was the right decision in terms of their safety… absolutely no regrets. We did what was the right thing to do,” Turner said.
Officials say the U.S. Coast Guard has rescued at least 20 people in various incidents as Harvey came through Texas.
Late Friday night, the storm was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. The storm caused nearly 300,000 customers to lose power and brought nearly 20 inches of rain in some areas.
The National Hurricane Center said Saturday the storm was expected to weaken over the next 48 hours and become a tropical storm by the afternoon. That came to fruition shortly before 1 p.m. local time as the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm.
On Sunday evening, the National Hurricane Center offered no promises of relief from the epic rains as forecasters located the center of the storm 10 miles (15 km) northeast of Victoria, Texas, or about 120 miles (193 km)
southwest of Houston. That center was inching to the southeast at 3 mph (6 kmh) with sustained winds of up to 40 mph (65 kmh).
While the storm was downgraded, it is still expected to stay in the region for days and give some areas as much as 40 inches of rain.
Three state prisons had to be evacuated Saturday morning because of a nearby river rising from the heavy rain.
With time running out, residents fled Friday from the path of the increasingly menacing-looking hurricane as it took aim at an area of Texas that includes oil refineries, chemical plants and dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.
Hurricane grew in massive strength in hours
Fueled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, Harvey grew rapidly, accelerating from a Category 1 early in the morning to a Category 4 by evening. Its transformation from an unnamed storm to a life-threatening behemoth took only 56 hours, an incredibly fast intensification.
“We know that we’ve got millions of people who are going to feel the impact of this storm,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman and meteorologist for the National Hurricane Center. “We really pray that people are listening to their emergency managers and get out of harm’s way.”
The hurricane came ashore as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961′s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.
Galveston-based storm surge expert Hal Needham said forecasts indicated that it was “becoming more and more likely that something really bad is going to happen.”
At least one researcher predicted heavy damage that would linger for months or longer.
“In terms of economic impact, Harvey will probably be on par with Hurricane Katrina,” said University of Miami senior hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. “The Houston area and Corpus Christi are going to be a mess for a long time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.