Jame Rowles examines the damage as Hurricane Hanna made landfall in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Saturday. AP
Hurricane Hanna pummeled the south Texas coast on Saturday night with howling winds and a surging sea that threatened a broad area already contending with an intense spike in coronavirus deaths.
Hanna is the first hurricane for the 2020 Atlantic storm season, which is expected to be unlike any other in recent memory. Authorities will have to contend with sheltering and evacuating people while also maintaining social distancing protocols and other pandemic restrictions.
By nightfall, Hanna's blistering winds were ripping up the Texas coast near Corpus Christi. A deadly storm surge was expected to hit a 300-mile area of the shoreline, from the town of Sargent in the north to Port Mansfield in the south, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The NHC forecast that Hanna would lose steam as it moved inland across Texas and northeastern Mexico overnight into Sunday. But the storm could dump upward of 18 inches of rain in the area through on Monday. That could cause life-threatening flash floods, while the storm could spawn tornadoes on the coastal plains.
Hanna, a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, came ashore on Padre Island Saturday afternoon and later made a second landfall in Eastern Kennedy County, Texas.
"Any hurricane is an enormous challenge," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a Saturday briefing about the storm. "This challenge is complicated and made even more severe, seeing that it's sweeping through an area that is the most challenged area in the state for COVID-19."
Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 32 counties in Texas that are in the storm's path.
On Saturday afternoon, the storm was about 75 miles (121 km) south of the city of Corpus Christi, packing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (138 kph), the NHC said.
"The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline," the Miami-based NHC said.
The storm is not expected to affect offshore oil and gas production. Energy companies have not evacuated workers or shut down production from their Gulf of Mexico platforms because of Hanna.Reuters
A hurricane warning is in effect for Port Mansfield to Mesquite Bay, a span that includes Corpus Christi. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Barra el Mezquital, Mexico, to Port Mansfield, Texas, and from Mesquite Bay to High Island, Texas.
The storm's top sustained winds decreased slightly to 170 mph (275 kph) as its westward movement slowed, crawling along Grand Bahama island early Monday at 2 mph (4 kph) in what forecasters said would be a daylong assault.
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