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Harvey Nears Landfall As Category 4 Hurricane

Final update  Friday, 9:11 p.m.
Find future updates here.

President Donald Trump has signed a declaration of disaster for the state of Texas, allowing federal money to flow to areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The Category 4 storm was expected to come ashore somewhere between the Port Aransas and Port O'Connor area soon, the National Hurricane Center said. Maximum winds are 130 mph, and water levels have risen to 4 feet above normal.

The storm could bring life-threatening flooding from both storm surge and rainfall, Ed Rappaport from the hurricane center said.

Harvey strengthened to a Category 4 storm in the late afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, the last time a Category 4 storm hit Texas was Hurricane Carla in 1961.

The NWS said the eye of the hurricane was nearing the coast. 

The town of Victoria, about an hour's drive from the Texas coast, is in the path of the storm. When KUT's Claire McInerney arrived there this morning, she was told there was a mandatory evacuation order in effect. Despite that order, Mayor Paul Polasek told NPR's Ari Shapiro, not many people left the town, population 70,000.

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"Strongly consider evacuating," Gov. Greg Abbott told residents in the areas between Corpus Christi and Houston today. "Put your life first and your property second."

At a news conference, Abbott said Hurricane Harvey was going to prove "more dangerous than many hurricanes."

Credit Syeda Hasan / KUT
Gov. Greg Abbott holds a news conference to provide updates about the state's preparation for Hurricane Harvey.

State officials said Texas has an estimated 41,000 shelter beds, but there is no way to tell how many people have evacuated at this point. Abbott said all state parks will be open to evacuees at no charge.

Asked whether undocumented people would be asked for their IDs at emergency shelters, he said no.
Abbott said he has asked President Trump to declare a disaster in anticipation of the storm, which is expected to hit the Texas coast by midnight.  

In a White House briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump may visit Texas next week.

Hurricane Harvey became a Category 3 storm around 2 p.m.

By 5 p.m., the center of the storm was 50 miles offshore and windspeeds had increased to 125 mph, Ed Rappaport of the National Hurricane Center said. Harvey was expected to make landfall by midnight somewhere between Corpus Christi and Port O'Connor. Conditions along the coast had deteriorated and it was "too dangerous to be outside," Rappaport said.

After making landfall, Harvey is projected to move inland and then eastward. The storm is forecast to then slow dramatically, Mike Brennan with the National Hurricane Center said, causing heavy rainfall and "life-threatening flooding conditions."

“All storms are bad, but this is a really bad, bad storm because of the rain,” state Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) said after a briefing Friday with emergency officials. “You may not have been in a flood zone before, but we’ve never witnessed the forecast for a storm like this. It’s going to be the rain, the rain and the rain.”

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for counties to the south and east of Travis, including Bastrop, Caldwell, Comal and Hays. Wind gusts could reach 45 mph. All of Central Texas is under a flash flood watch through the weekend.

Ten to 20 inches of rainfall are expected east of I-35 through Tuesday. South of I-10, totals are expected to reach as many as 25 inches; isolated areas will see as many as 30 inches.

National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Lenz said rainfall amounts for Travis County are likely to total 5 to 10 inches over a three-day period and that the area could also get some serious winds.

"There is the potential Saturday afternoon through Sunday of getting tropical storm-force wind in or near the Austin area," he said, "and that would be winds of 39 miles an hour or greater and probably most of that is going to be in any of the heavier rain bands we get.”

Austin ISD cancelled all activities over the weekend, including sporting events and field trips.

Organizers of Austin Pride also said its parade this weekend would be rescheduled. 

The City of Austin opened the first shelters for hurricane evacuees at Delco Center on Pecan Brook Drive and at LBJ/LASA High School. 

Central Texas Red Cross is seeking volunteers and will be holding trainings for shelter volunteers and managers Friday and Saturday. Learn more about that here.

A storm surge warning has been issued from Port Mansfield to San Luis Pas for the next 36 hours. A hurricane warning has been issued from Port Mansfield to Sargent.

Officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of Port Aransas. The Texas Department of Transportation plans to operate the ferries connecting the coastal city to the mainland until late Friday morning, weather permitting, and then cease operations. 

Houston and New Braunfels ISDs canceled Monday classes due to the storm.

Texas State University has canceled events over the weekend, as well as Monday classes. Residence halls and dining facilities will remain operational.

To speed deployment of state resources, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in advance for 30 counties on or near the coast: 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.

In preparation for Harvey, several airlines are allowing customers to re-book their flights. The list of airlines includes American, Frontier, United and Southwest. Waived fee dates range from today until Sunday. Travelers are urged to contact their airline for more information. Below are links to airlines’ refund policies.

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