Tropical Storm Harold is strengthening as it nears the first US landfall of the Atlantic hurricane season, unleashing heavy rain and wind on the South Texas coast as its outer bands move ashore.
Harold now has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph with stronger gusts. The storm reformed to the north, and its center is located about 35 miles northeast of Port Mansfield, Texas, the National Hurricane Center said. More than 1 million people are under tropical storm warnings.
Rain will increase in intensity and tropical-storm-force winds will arrive over parts of South Texas by late Tuesday morning. The latest track has the system making landfall south of Corpus Christi by midday Tuesday.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued from the mouth of the Rio Grande to Port O’ Connor, Texas, with tropical storm watches in effect from Port O’Connor to Sargent, Texas.
Harold will be able to dump 3 to 5 inches of rain across South Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday with locally higher amounts closer to 7 inches. Across Mexico, 4 to 6 inches of rain are expected.
Tropical-storm-force winds will occur in and around where Harold makes landfall midday Tuesday with sustained winds of 40-50 mph and gusts up to 65 mph likely. As the storm moves inland Tuesday afternoon, wind speeds may ease up slightly but locally-damaging gusts of 30-40 mph will still be possible.
A storm surge of 1 to 3 feet could briefly flood low-lying coastal areas along the mouth of the Rio Grande River to Sargent, Baffin Bay, Corpus Christi and Matagorda Bay. Life-threatening surf and rip currents conditions will last across the southern Texas coast through Tuesday, and it’s possible the state may also see a few tornadoes develop.
The storm threat is moving into southern Texas as the region continues to battle one of its hottest, driest summers on record.
While this tropical system’s rains could help quench parts of the drought-stricken state, some of the worst drought conditions – areas of extreme and exceptional drought in Central Texas – might miss out on much of the rain.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deployed the Texas National Guard, swift water rescue boat squads, among other emergency resources ahead of the storm’s arrival. “Texas stands ready to deploy all available resources to South Texas as tropical storm conditions impact the region this week,” he said in a statement.
“I encourage Texans to remain weather-aware and heed the guidance of state and local officials and emergency management personnel as they work together to keep communities safe,” the governor added.
South Beach and North Beach were closed for driving and camping Monday in anticipation of the storm’s arrival, Padre Island National Seashore officials said. The national seashore is located along a barrier island south of Corpus Christi.
Corpus Christi officials told residents who must be outside during the incoming storm to drive slower than usual, turn on their headlights and be aware of possible flooding in low-lying areas.
Crews across the Corpus Christi area could be seen working Monday to prep critical canals and drainage infrastructure for the heavy rainfall.
About 40 miles northeast, the city of Port Aransas declared a local state disaster on Monday ahead of impacts from the storm.
The city is “under the threat of imminent disaster, injury, or loss of life or property, resulting from a Tropical Storm, which will impact the coastal beaches of the City of Port Aransas Nueces County, Texas with flooding or severe damage,” the proclamation said.
Naval Air Station Kingsville ordered those in the RV Park on the installation to evacuate, while voluntary evacuations were called in Riviera, Baffin Bay and Loyola Beach, authorities said.
Meanwhile, AEP Texas, which delivers power to South Texas, said it is lining up crews, equipment and other resources in anticipation of possible power outages.
Tropical Storm Franklin is set to slam Hispaniola by Wednesday with life-threatening flooding and mudslides. The storm will also bring heavy rainfall to Puerto Rico.
Franklin had sustained winds of 50 mph as of Tuesday morning, and was located over the Caribbean Sea about 260 miles south of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It is expected to make a hard turn to the north later Tuesday and make landfall in Hispaniola Wednesday.
Franklin will unload very heavy rain across Hispaniola Tuesday through Wednesday and raise the threat of flash flooding and mudslides. Isolated rainfall amounts up to 15 inches possible. Up to 6 inches of heavy rain could fall in Puerto Rico through Thursday, but the island will escape the worst of Franklin.
The Atlantic hurricane season is ramping up. Three tropical systems formed in 24 hours Saturday into Sunday. Harold now marks the fourth in four days.