CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Reuters) – Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast on Friday as a Category 4 storm, bringing life-threatening winds and the likelihood of catastrophic flooding as the most powerful storm in over a decade hit the mainland United States.
The hurricane made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi around 10 p.m. CDT (0300 GMT) with maximum winds of 130 miles per hour (209 km per hour). The storm is expected to move slowly over the Texas and Louisiana coasts for days, with forecasts for storm surges of up to 13 feet (4 meters) and over 3 feet (90 cm) of rain.
As many as 6 million people were believed to be in Harvey’s path, as is the heart of America’s oil refining operations. The storm’s impact on refineries has already pushed up gasoline prices while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lifted some rules on gasoline to reduce shortages.
Fueled by the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Harvey became the first Category 4 hurricane to wallop the United States since Charley in 2004 and the first to hit Texas since Carla in 1961.
About 30 miles (45 km) from Corpus Christi and moving northwest, Harvey caused scattered power outages both on the coast near Galveston and 100 miles (160 km) inland.
Donald Trump, facing the first large-scale natural disaster of his presidency, said on Twitter he signed a disaster proclamation which “unleashes the full force of government help” shortly before Harvey made landfall.
While thousands fled the expected devastating flooding and destruction, many residents defied mandatory evacuation orders and stocked up on food, fuel and sandbags, drawing the ire of local authorities.
“We’re suggesting if people are going to stay here, mark their arm with a Sharpie pen with their name and Social Security number,” Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios told reporters Friday, according to media reports. “We hate to talk about things like that. It’s not something we like to do but it’s the reality. People don’t listen.”
There were initial reports of extensive damage in Rockport, near the eye of the hurricane, including structural damage to a high school, hotel and other buildings being used as shelters, according to local media.