Harvey’s punch lands hard

In hurricane’s wake:?Smashed homes and businesses; heavy rain

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — Hurricane Harvey rolled over the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday, smashing homes and businesses and lashing the shore with wind and rain so intense that drivers were forced off the road because they could not see in front of them.

The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds. It weakened overnight to Category 1 and then to a tropical storm.

But the system’s most destructive powers were just beginning. Rainfall that will continue for days could dump more than 40 inches of water and inundate many communities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.

“Our focus is shifting to the extreme and potentially historic levels of flooding that we could see,” said Eric Blake, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

No deaths were immediately reported. High winds kept emergency crews out of many places, and authorities said it could be hours before emergency teams are able to fully assess damage.

By dawn, nearly 300,000 consumers were without power in the coastal region, and nearly 20 inches of rain had fallen in some places.

The mayor of Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm’s path, said his community took a blow “right on the nose” that left “widespread devastation,” including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.

Mayor Charles “C.J.” Wax told The Weather Channel that the city’s emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.

About 10 people were taken to the county jail for treatment after the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed, television station KIII reported.

On Friday, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling the station that people who chose not to evacuate should mark their arm with a Sharpie pen, implying that the marks would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.

In the storm’s immediate aftermath, the Coast Guard sent two helicopters to try to rescue the crews of three tugboats reported in distress in a channel near Port Aransas. And about 4,500 inmates were evacuated from three state prisons in Brazoria County south of Houston because the nearby Brazos River was rising.

By early afternoon, Harvey had weakened to a tropical storm. Its maximum sustained winds had fallen to about 70 mph, and the storm was centered about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio. It was moving north at 2 mph, the hurricane center said.

The hurricane posed the first major emergency management test of President Donald Trump’s administration. The president signed a federal disaster declaration for coastal counties Friday night.

Trump commended the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for his handling of the storm.

In a tweet Saturday morning addressed to FEMA head Brock Long, Trump said: “You are doing a great job — the world is watching! Be safe.”

In a separate tweet, Trump said he is monitoring the hurricane closely from Camp David. “We are leaving nothing to chance. City, State and Federal Govs. working great together!”

The president also tweeted, “We have fantastic people on the ground, got there long before #Harvey. So far, so good!”

In Corpus Christi, the major city closest to the storm’s center, wind whipped palm trees and stinging sheets of horizontal rain slapped against hotels and office buildings along the seawall as the storm made landfall.

Daybreak revealed downed lamp posts and tree limbs and roof tiles torn off buildings. The city’s marina was nearly unscathed, save an awning ripped from a restaurant entrance and a wooden garbage bin uprooted and thrown.