At least one person is dead after Tropical Storm Harvey roared into the south Texas Coast Friday as a Category 4 hurricane.
According to media reports, a man was killed when his house caught fire at the height of the storm.
Officials in several coastal Texas towns asked residents to stay away until they could get a better scope of the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, now a tropical storm, during its Friday night landfall.
In Port Aransas, Mayor Charles Bujan told The Weather Channel there were no fatalities but damage was widespread – including a trailer park that is 100-percent destroyed. Search and rescue operations continued in the town Saturday afternoon, and all residents were asked to stay out of the town because damage was severe and authorities needed more time to survey, KIII-TV reported.
During a Saturday press conference, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also confirmed that no deaths have been reported and noted that it’s too early to speculate how much property damage the storm has incurred.
It’s believed as many as 100 people stayed in Port Aransas to ride out the storm Friday night, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported.
‘Widespread Devastation’ in Rockport
Buildings were ripped to shreds in Rockport and firefighters were unable to respond to pleas for help in the hours following Hurricane Harvey’s Friday night landfall along the Texas coast.
In Rockport, a town of about 10,000 located on Aransas Bay, KTRK-TV reported 10 people sustained injuries when the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed during the storm. The severity of those injuries was unknown.
“We know there is widespread devastation,” Rockport Mayor CJ Wax said during a Saturday morning interview with The Weather Channel. “I think it’s safe to say we took a Cat. 4 (hurricane) right on the nose, and we’d appreciate everyone’s prayers.”
— Jeff Gammons (@StormVisuals) August 26, 2017
Firefighters in Rockport said they wouldn’t be able to respond to emergency calls until conditions improved, KTRK also reported.
“There’s nothing we can do at this moment,” Rockport volunteer fire department Chief Steve Sims told KTRK. “We are anxious to get out there and make assessments, but we’re hunkered down for now.”
Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that an unknown number of buildings were destroyed by Harvey’s punishing winds. Earlier reports that Rockport High School had been destroyed were inaccurate, the report added, but the structure did sustain heavy damage.
“A part of the roof has caved in, but the reports that buildings have disappeared don’t appear to be accurate,” volunteer fire department spokeswoman Gillian Cox told the Caller-Times.
About 128 people were evacuated from a Fairfield Inn in Rockport after the hotel suffered severe damage, according to a National Weather Service report.
The U.S. Coast Guard rescued four people from the vessel Signet Enterprise Saturday near Port Aransas, according to DVIDS. In total, 15 people have been rescued from vessels.
More than 300,000 customers have lost power in Texas during the storm.
Damage Near Houston May Have Been Caused by Tornadoes
In Fort Bend County, roofs were torn off homes and trees were scattered across roads in the Sienna Plantation neighborhood, and the damage may have been caused by a tornado. Ridge Point High School also suffered damage during the storm, according to KTRK.
— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) August 26, 2017
At least 50 homes were damaged in the area during the powerful storm, KHOU.com reported. No major injuries were reported, but a deputy was blown off the road while responding to the situation, the report added.
Later Saturday morning, damage was also reported in the town of Katy and may have been caused by a tornado. Images on social media showed heavy damage to structures in the town; no injuries were reported, according to a separate KTRK report.
— Daniel Gotera (@DTGoteraKHOU) August 26, 2017
Residents in Montgomery County will be unable to return home for an extended period of time because of a power transmission issue, a spokesman told KHOU. Authorities will be putting up roadblocks and only workers at the chemical plant will be permitted through the barriers. County officials say it could be days before the mandatory evacuation is lifted and residents can return home. Evacuees in San Antonio are also being told to stay out while crews clear roads.
Gov. Abbott has waived hotel taxes on all evacuees and first responders.
Cruise Ships Unable to Return to Galveston
Some 20,000 passengers on four cruise ships were stranded in the Gulf of Mexico as the hurricane made conditions too dangerous to return to Galveston, KTRK-TV reported. The Carnival Valor and Carnival Freedom, which planned to return to Galveston on Friday, will instead sail to New Orleans, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Carnival Breeze stayed in Cozumel Friday night and was expected to depart for Galveston Saturday, while the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas was expected to wait until Sunday to sail back to Texas, the report added.
Corpus Christi Officials Issue Stern Warnings Before, During Storm
In Corpus Christi, the major city closest to the center of the storm, officials issued a boil water order Friday night.
“To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking, and ice making should be boiled and cooled prior to use for drinking water or human consumption purposes,” the order states. “The water should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil and then boiled for two minutes.”
If you venture outside, there are many active power lines down or compromised citywide. Proceed with extreme caution. #StaySafeCC
— City of Corpus Christi (@cityofcc) August 26, 2017
Melissa Munguia, the deputy emergency management coordinator in Nueces County, which includes Corpus Christi, told the Associated Press early Saturday that it could be several more hours before crews could fully assess the damage in coastal communities.
Officials say they have no idea how many residents voluntarily evacuated the city of 325,000 and nearby low-lying areas.
Those same officials warned that those who remained in the path of the powerful hurricane would be subjected to the storm’s wrath for days.
“We’re suggesting if people are going to stay here, mark their arm with a Sharpie pen with their name and Social Security number,” Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios told reporters Friday. “We hate to talk about things like that. It’s not something we like to do but it’s the reality, people don’t listen.”
Just hours before the hurricane made landfall, the governor and Houston leaders issued conflicting statements on evacuation.
Gov. Greg Abbott urged more people to flee, even if their cities were not in evacuation zones, while Houston authorities told people to remain in their homes and did not recommend widespread evacuations.
As the storm approached Friday night, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had signed a disaster proclamation unleashing “the full force of government help,” at the request of Gov. Abbott, who earlier in the day warned that the storm would be “a very major disaster.”
On Saturday, the president tweeted from Camp David that his administration is “leaving nothing to chance.” Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will travel to Texas early next week. Trump reportedly instructed relevant departments and agencies to “stay fully engaged and positioned to support his number one priority of saving lives.”
The Texas National Guard has deployed more than 1,000 personnel to assist, and more than 400 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals from around the nation were called in by the federal government. Two 250-bed medical units were also being deployed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while other federal medical units are available in Dallas.
The Texas National Guard deployed more than 1,000 personnel ahead of the storm to assist in rescues and aftermath.
Consumers are asked to report gas price gouging to the Texas Attorney General’s office.
Animal shelters as far away as Atlanta are accepting animals from the devastated Texas coast.