UPDATED with storm making landfall: Cable and broadcast news networks have marshaled forces to cover Hurricane Harvey as the storm has hit the Gulf Coast of Texas and western Louisiana tonight. The National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm to a Category 4 around 6 PM Texas time, with heavy rains and sustained winds reaching more than 130 mph and a predicted storm surge and flooding the biggest worry over the long night and weekend to come.
A Category 4 storm could generate 12-foot storm surge, 40 inches of rain and “catastrophic” flooding. The White House issued a release at 7:12 PM PT approving the Texas governor’s request for a disaster declaration (read it in full below). The storm is slow, experts say, meaning it will continue to pummel the region rather than dissipate as it moves over land.
The National Weather Service warned earlier in the day of “life-threatening” storm-surge flooding, which could leave swaths of South Texas “uninhabitable for weeks or months” including in major metro areas like Houston and San Antonio. It was the strongest language the NWS has used since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 dead.
Officials in Rockport, TX, advised residents who refuse to evacuate to write their names and Social Security number on a forearm, Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios told CNN. Rios said it will “help out first responders should they find a body.”
The storm reached land between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor tonight.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pleaded with citizens to heed evacuation orders (Corpus Christi is already under mandatory evacuation and curfews). On the Weather Channel’s wall-to-wall coverage, correspondents along the coast are getting harder and harder to see as the rains and winds pick up. Tornado warnings have been issued at different points on the coast as the day has worn on, and will continue throughout the night as far away as Gavelston.
Some areas are expected to get up to 3 feet of rain as the storm is forcasted to hover over the region from San Antonio and Corpus Christi to New Orleans through the weekend. The storm surge is predicted to reach as high as 13 feet in some areas, which is expected to cause widespread flooding. Waters were scene rising as news crews braved conditions to bring reports from the mostly emptied out coastal cities.
As of Thursday night, local stores’ shelves were emptied of water and supplies, gas station lines were long, and businesses were boarding up windows. Events also were impacted: Coldplay said today that it has postponed tonight’s scheduled concert at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans (they are on the road in New Orleans this weekend; the Houston Astros, who play at Minute Maid Park, are in Anaheim for a weekend series with the Angels). Mary J. Blige also postponed her scheduled Friday concert in Sugar Land, TX, with a new date set for September 19. Also cancelling was Lady Antebellum, whose Sunday set at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion was scotched.
The NFL’s Houston Texans are playing a preseason game at New Orleans on Saturday — that city also is preparing for the storm as its pumps and levies are still not at full strength after Katrina 12 years ago.
President Donald Trump tweeted today:
Here’s how the the networks are planning coverage for now, with the cable news networks planning round-the-clock coverage (update for latest):
ABC News will broadcast a special edition of World News Tonight anchored by David Muir at 6:30 PM ET tonight, followed by a live special edition of Nightline at 12:35 AM ET as the storm makes landfall. ABC News will air a special report at 2 AM ET anchored by Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang in New York. Following the special report, Nightline will return live PT with ongoing coverage from the weather team, Chang and meteorologist Kait Parker. GMA picks up coverage Saturday at 5 AM PT followed by a special edition at 7 AM ET with anchors Dan Harris and Amy Robach and chief meteorologist Ginger Zee.
CBS Evening News will provide the latest reports from in the field and projections of the storm. CBSN will have continuous coverage with live updates, with coverage to continue on CBS This Morning: Saturday with WBBM-TV meteorologist Megan Glaros. WCBS-TV chief weathercaster Lonnie Quinn will join CBS This Morning on Monday. City assignments: David Begnaud (Corpus Christi); DeMarco Morgan (Galveston); Manuel Bojorquez (Port Lavaca).
NBC & MSNBC
NBC News plans special reports on Hurricane Harvey tonight and tomorrow starting tonight at 8:50 PM ET, with coverage to air this weekend on Today and Nightly News and Meet The Press With Chuck Todd on Sunday.NBC News’ Gadi Schwartz will be reporting from Galveston, TX on NBC News’ Snapchat show Stay Tuned.
MSNBC will be in live coverage through 11 PM ET Saturday, with meteorologist Bill Karins reporting. on the hurricane’s latest path. City Assignments: Gabe Gutierrez, Maya Rodriguez, Catie Beck, Dr. John Torres (Corpus Christi); Kerry Sanders (Port Lavaca); Joe Fryer (Galveston); Jacob Rascon and Stephanie Gosk (Houston).
Full coverage with meteorologist Chad Myers in Atlanta. City assignments: Nick Valencia, Martin Savidge (Corpus Christi); Polo Sandoval, Derek Van Dam (San Antonio); Ed Lavandera (Galveston); Rosa Flores (Houston).
Fox News Channel’s Happening Now co-anchor Jon Scott will anchor live coverage from 11 PM-1 AM ET with meteorologists Janice Dean and Rick Reichmuth contributing from New York. Fox & Friends Weekend will begin an hour early at 5 AM ET. City Assignments: Steve Harrigan, Rob Schmitt (Corpus Christi); Casey Stegall (Gavelston); Matt Finn (Texas coast).
Here is the full text of the White House disaster declaration:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2017
President Donald J. Trump Approves Texas Disaster Declaration
Today, President Donald J. Trump declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Texas and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey beginning on August 23, 2017, and continuing.
The President’s action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Bee, Goliad, Kleberg, Nueces, San Patricio, and Refugio.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Federal funding also is available to the State and to eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the counties of Bee, Goliad, Kleberg, Nueces, San Patricio, and Refugio Counties.
Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Brock Long, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Kevin L. Hannes as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.
Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.