Residents of the Gulf Coast hunkered down late Friday amid dire warnings of a major natural disaster as Hurricane Harvey roared ashore as a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds for a few hours before weakening as it slowly moved inland.
The National Hurricane Center reported at 10 p.m. Central time that the center of the eye of the cyclone had just crossed the Texas shoreline over the northern end of a barrier island about four miles east of the city of Rockport. But weather officials on Saturday had downgraded Harvey to Category 1 by 5 a.m. Central time, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.
When it made landfall hours earlier, Harvey easily was the strongest hurricane to hit the United States since Charley in 2004 and the first Category 3 or greater storm (winds of 111 mph or higher) since Wilma in 2005. Forecasters and government officials, scrambling to deal with a storm that popped up this week after being a mere tropical depression in the western Gulf of Mexico, warned of catastrophic flooding, ferocious winds and a storm surge that could reach 12 feet.
The storm, a Category 4 hurricane which was later downgraded to Category 1, had maximum sustained winds of 195 kmph. Resulting floodwaters were expected to reach 6 to 12 feet above ground level along the coast.
Harvey has impacted the Electric Reliability Council of Texas electric system, with 250,000 customers without power. Millions of residents along the south Texas coast saw hurricane-force winds that uprooted trees and power poles. They had frantically stocked up on food, water and gas, while others heading out of the storms path boarded up windows and doors of their homes and businesses.
Airlines cancelled flights, schools were shuttered while concerts and other events in Houston and other coastal cities were postponed.
Thousands of cruise ship customers waited offshore until their vessels were able to dock safely.
At least 15,000 people aboard three Carnival Cruise Line ships scheduled to return to Galveston this weekend were delayed or detoured due to the hurricane.