“Any hurricane is a huge challenge,” Governor Greg Abbott said at a press conference on Saturday. “This challenge is complicated and made even more serious, as it sweeps over an area which is the most difficult area of the state for Covid-19. ”
The governor issued a disaster declaration for 32 counties in the state and also issued a request for a federal emergency disaster declaration. Urging extreme caution, Abbott has warned residents of the state not to forget about the virus because of the storm.
Officials in Hidalgo County, where several of the affected towns are located, reported overwhelmed hospitals were full last week and a judge ordered residents to take shelter in their homes following an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
“It’s a time in response to a hurricane where sometimes people come together, come together for shelter, come together just like close family comes together, as friends come together to respond,” Abbott said. “This merger will continue to give Covid-19 the ability to transmit from one person to another. “
As the storm sweeps through the region, it brings heavy rains and threats of flash flooding.
“Life-threatening” flooding expected, governor says
Already, some of the southernmost parts of Texas have received more than a foot of rain as the center of the storm moved toward northeastern Mexico, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said, but the rain did not not slowing down yet.
Areas of southern Texas can expect another five to ten inch rain early in the morning, with some localized areas seeing up to 18 inches of water. Areas along the Rio Grande Valley are particularly susceptible to flooding, Van Dam said. Flooding expected in the Rio Grande Valley could be “deadly,” the governor said on Saturday evening as Hanna made landfall.
“The storm will rain mainly over southernmost Texas and northeastern Mexico,” he said.
Flash flood warnings are in effect by the Weather Service for areas such as the Town of McAllen, Mission, Brownsville, San Benito, Donna, Mercedes, Raymondville and Lyford.
“We will continue to see dramatic waves of flooding, including flash flooding, which will suddenly hit people. One moment they will be in an area … where it looks like there is a little rain and a few moments later they might be inundated with water right up to their doors, if they are in their car, up to their knees, if they walk around, ”the governor said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, another potential tropical system that could develop over the next five days is the trekking behind Hanna across the Atlantic Ocean, Van Dam said.
268000 without electricity
Tropical storm force winds in parts of Texas could cause power outages and damage to buildings and trees, the Weather Service said. There is the possibility of brief spin-up tornadoes, Van Dam said, and there will always be dangerous backflow currents and localized flooding on beaches along the coast.
At least 268,898 homes were without power statewide as of Sunday morning, according to PowerOutage.US.
In Mission, Texas, officials said emergency responders early Sunday morning had already been sent to several homes for water rescues. A tornado warning was issued early Sunday morning and officials reported thousands of residents were without power after high winds damaged power lines and traffic lights.
“Electricity crews have to take shelter in place due to the wind speed and rain,” the town of Mission said on Twitter. “You are asked to report only downed power lines or safety hazards. Teams will continue to respond to outages when it is safe to do so. “
Hurricane Douglas approaches Hawaii
Meanwhile, a second storm system threatens another U.S. state until Monday.
Hurricane Douglas, which has now weakened to a Category 1 storm according to Van Dam, will impact Hawaii, and the island of Oahu will likely bear the brunt of it.
The storm will pass “dangerously near” or over the main Hawaiian Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center and the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
“It’s vital that you don’t focus on the exact trajectory or intensity of the Douglas forecast,” the centers said. “Due to Douglas’ angle of approach to the islands, any small change in course could cause significant differences in where the worst weather conditions occur. Even if the center remains offshore, severe impacts could still occur on the islands.
A hurricane warning is in effect for Oahu, a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning for Maui County and the Big Island and a tropical storm warning for Niihau and Kauai, according to the Weather Service.
The approaching storm threatens the islands with high and damaging winds, rain, as well as landslides and strong waves. The main effects will be felt over the next six to 12 hours, Van Dam said.
Ahead of the storm, President Donald Trump approved a declaration of emergency for Hawaii, according to a White House statement.
The statement authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide “assistance to the counties of Hawaii, Kauai and Maui as well as the city and county of Honolulu,” the statement said.