The Real Problem Begins as Harvey Weakens to Tropical Storm

The Focus with Storm Now Goes to Heavy Rain and Flooding

Late Friday night, Harvey came ashore as a Category Four Hurricane near the town of Rockport at about 10:00 PM CDT, or about 11:00 PM EDT. Wind gusts in Rockport were as high as 132 miles per hour, and the devastation in the town is widespread and catastrophic with many building and roof failures. The real problem begins though as Harvey transitions to a potentially devastating rainmaker.

Harvey lasted as a hurricane for some 15 hours before just being downgraded to a tropical storm with 70 mile per hour winds as of 2:00 PM EDT, or 1:00 PM CDT. Corpus Christi ended up dodging a huge bullet with the storm moving further to the north, and placing the city on the western, and more weaker side of the storm. The result was winds that were less than half that in Rockport. Peak wind gust at Corpus Christi was 63 miles per hour according to CNN.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott indicated in his latest press conference that rainfall amounts have ranged from 16 inches in Houston well off to the north and east to 20 inches in Corpus Christi. The disaster declaration has been expanded to 50 counties. Approximately 1,000 people are involved in search and rescue operations across the area affected by the storm. The Southeastern portion of the Lone Star State is under a Tornado Watch as Harvey’s circulation continues to move further inland. About 50 Tornado Warnings have been issued since the storm made landfall.

Inland areas such as Victoria, Texas are currently being lashed by strong winds and heavy rains. Many of the rivers in Eastern Texas are either under major or moderate flood stage. According to Robert Smith of Garden State Weather, there are over one million people that are without power at the moment in Texas. Although the storm has weakened, Harvey still contains plenty of tropical moisture, and now that the steering currents over the storm have broken down, and the storm has slowed to nearly a crawl, torrential rains and flooding are becoming a huge concern.

Mandatory evacuations have been issued for residents along the Brazos and San Bernard River. Harvey came ashore with 130 mile per hour sustained winds and a minimum central pressure of 938 millibars. The low pressure ranks Harvey as among the Top 65 storms of all time in the Atlantic. Harvey’s pressure at landfall makes it stronger Texas hurricane than Celia (1970) with 945 millibars, and Allen (1980) with 948 millibars. Harvey was the first major hurricane to come ashore in the United States in almost 12 years, and the first Category Four system to make landfall since Hurricane Charley in August 2004.

Harvey became the first major hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Hurricane Bret did in 1999. Bret was a much smaller storm that struck a relatively uninhabited area at that time, and therefore didn’t cause much death or destruction. Harvey, which had weakened to a depression on Sunday, and then was downgraded to an open wave shortly afterward, began to get better organized on Wednesday night, and then rapidly intensified with a pressure drop of 65 millibars in about 57 hours.

Reasons for the rapid deepening with Harvey was due to the fact that the upper level wind shear that had been hampering it during the day on Wednesday, had relented. High pressure built up aloft and Harvey’s structure became more symmetric or circular, and fed off the high octane energy from the very warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, which have ranged between 85 and 90 degrees during the course of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Prior to Harvey’s landfall on Friday night, the United States coastline had not endured a landfalling major hurricane since Hurricane Wilma came ashore in Southwestern Florida in late October 2005, which was 4,324 days ago. With the dearth of landfalling major hurricanes over the last dozen years or so, many people living along the coast have not experienced a major hurricane. This fact may have influenced many residents including about 50 to 60 percent of the population of Rockport, decided to ride out the storm according to media reports.

About a couple weeks ago, there was a lot of chatter going around the internet, Twitter, and Facebook about the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season being a disappointment to date, and some didn’t expect much to happen the rest of the season. Harvey is a simple and powerful reminder that large numbers to not always translate into a huge season. All it takes is just one.