Hurricane Harvey could be the strongest storm to hit the country in over a decade.
The storm, expected to hit the Texas coast late Friday, just strengthened into a hurricane.
Harvey could be the first major hurricane (Category 3 or above) to make landfall in the U.S. since Wilma 12 years ago, the National Hurricane Center predicted Thursday afternoon.
The forecast shows the hurricane bringing storm surges up to 12 feet and rainfall up to 30 inches to parts of Texas and Louisiana, which could lead to life-threatening floods. A few things to watch:
- Houston. Just 43 feet above sea level, Houston has faced more casualties from floods than any other place in the country. Unchecked development has exacerbated the city’s flooding problem. The last major hurricane to hit the area was Bret in 1999.
- Corpus Christi. Oil tanks sit on the coast in the country’s fourth-largest port, in the path of potential storm surges. The town issued a voluntary evacuation but had not yet set up temporary shelters as of late Thursday. Mayor Joe McComb didn’t seem too bothered. “I think people are smart enough to make their evacuation decisions,” he said at a press conference, “and they don’t need the government telling them what to do.”
- Trump’s response. Harvey could be the new administration’s first natural-disaster test. FEMA, the federal agency responsible for disaster response, is under new leadership, and disaster relief has faced significant cuts under Trump.
In short, we’re looking at a region and a president untested by recent hurricanes.