Tropical Storm Harvey is "quickly strengthening" and forecast to be a major Category Three hurricane with 125 mph winds when it approaches the mid Texas coast late Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Thursday.
A hurricane warning was issued Thursday morning for most of the central and southern Texas coast, after Tropical Storm Harvey regained strength while drifting into the Gulf of Mexico.
Long lines are forming at grocery stores as Texas Gulf Coast residents prepare for a slow-moving tropical storm expected to drop as many as 20 inches of rain.
The storm is expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday. The warning, issued Thursday morning, covers an area stretching about 100 miles from Port Mansfield, just north of Brownsville to Matagorda, just north of Corpus Christi.
Hurricane expert Jeff Masters at Weather Underground advised residents: "If you live on the coast of Texas, please heed the advice of local emergency management officials, and get out today if you live in an evacuation zone."
The National Weather Service says it's been 14 years since a hurricane made landfall along the southern portion of the Texas coast. The last major hurricane to hit south Texas was Hurricane Bret, which made landfall as a Category Three hurricane in 1999 on Padre island.
Forecasters say 10 to 15 inches of rain could fall between Friday and Tuesday in most area, with higher amounts in some places. "Life-threatening storm surge and freshwater flooding expected," the Hurricane Center said ina Thursay morning advisory.
The storm's maximum sustained winds on Thursday measured 80 mph (100 kph) but the Hurricane Center says Harvey is expected to strengthen to a hurricane by Friday, when it's expected to approach the southern Texas coast.
As of 1pm EDT, the storm was centered about 305 miles (490 kilometers) southeast of Corpus Christi and was moving in a northwesterly direction at 10 mph (17 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 90 miles (150 km).
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered the State Operations Center to elevate its readiness level, making state resources available for possible rescue and recovery actions. Abbott also pre-emptively declared a state of disaster for 30 counties on or near the coast to speed deployment of state resources.