Although Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane and is weakening, forecasters are predicting that rainfall generated by the storm system could continue for several more days. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) reported that the storm made landfall on Saturday at around 0300 UTC between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, with maximum sustained winds of 130 MPH. Winds have subsided to 75 MPH, but the National Hurricane Center (NHC) now says that Harvey is “drenching Texas” and “torrential rains” are expected to produce “total rain accumulations of 15 to 30 inches and isolated maximum amounts of 40 inches over the middle and upper Texas coast through Thursday.”
“During the same time period Harvey is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 5 to 15 inches in far south Texas, the Texas Hill Country and southwest and central Louisiana. Rainfall of this magnitude will cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding.” In addition, the combination of a dangerous storm surge and tides will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Texas. FEMA said some 300,000 customers are without power in Texas.
As then-Category 4 Hurricane Harvey bore down on his state, ARRL South Texas Section Manager Lee Cooper, W5LHC, reported that all 97 South Texas counties were on alert, with many preparing to assist coastal areas as needed.
The Hurricane Watch Net remains active on both 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz. The VoIP Hurricane Net activated Friday (connect at *WX_TALK* Echolink conference node: 7203/IRLP 9219. Stations on All-Star can connect to the Echolink side of the system by dialing *033007203). The Southern Territory SATERN Net has activated at least for today until 2000 CDT on its regular frequency of 7.262 MHz. WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center activated at 2100 UTC on Friday.
“Our West Gulf Division Communications Task Forces (Rapid Response Teams) are preparing for possible activation into any devastated areas,” Cooper told ARRL on Friday. “Several emergency operations centers (EOCs) are activated, and most others are on alert and preparing to activate as needed. The state EOC is activated and fully operational. Army MARS is ramping up and getting ready to deploy to assist in evacuations.”
Cooper said several Texas counties were under evacuation orders, although these are not mandatory. Governor Greg Abbott issued disaster declarations for more than 30 counties.
South Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Jeff Walter, KE5FGA, has been updating his Section’s emergency response plans. “We have received calls of support from the Alabama SEC, the Oklahoma SEC, and the North Texas acting SEC,” he told ARRL. “We are asking our members to take care of their families first.”
In Harris and Galveston counties and the City of Houston, ARES/RACES volunteers have deployed to support radio operations for emergency management offices.
At ARRL Headquarters, the Emergency Preparedness Staff continues to keep a close watch on Harvey and on Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) preparations in Texas and neighboring states. ARRL staff has been coordinating with the American Red Cross. W1AW has been in monitoring mode but will activate, if needed. The ARRL New Mexico Section remains on standby and has offered assistance, if needed. Mexico’s national association for Amateur Radio, FMRE, has offered assistance.
According to FEMA, as of Saturday morning, 24 shelters were open, housing some 1,450 evacuees. Additional shelter locations are on standby. ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said on Friday that it’s anticipated some 20,000 individuals will require sheltering for 4 days, and 10,000 will require sheltering for 14 days. “This is expected to be a long-haul event, up to 6 weeks,” he said in a Friday afternoon update.