Hurricane Hanna strengthened as it made landfall on the Texas coast Saturday, with the storm set to bring heavy rains, coastal floods and possible tornadoes — all while the state struggles with a surge of coronavirus cases.
Hanna was upgraded Saturday morning from a tropical storm, becoming the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
It was expected to begin weakening after official landfall, the hurricane center said.
It reached the Texas coast on Padre Island at 5 p.m. CT, the center said, and hurricane conditions were lashing the island.
It issued a storm surge warning as well as an official hurricane warning for areas surrounding Port Mansfield, Mesquite Bay and Sargent, Texas.
Hanna was moving west at 8 mph with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, federal forecasters said.
Corpus Christi is in Nueces County, which made national headlines when health officials said several dozen infants tested positive for the coronavirus from July 1 to July 16.
“Don’t feel like since we’ve been fighting COVID for five months that we’re out of energy or we’re out of gas. We’re not,” Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb said Friday. “We can do these two things together, and we’re going to win both of them.”
Farther south in Cameron County, which borders Mexico, more than 300 confirmed new cases have been reported almost daily for the past two weeks, according to state health figures. The past week has also been the county’s deadliest of the pandemic.
Hanna’s rain “may result in life-threatening flash flooding, rapid rises on small streams, and isolated minor to moderate river flooding in south Texas,” the National Hurricane Center said. The hurricane is expected to bring 6 to 12 inches of rain, with isolated maximum totals of 18 inches, through Sunday night to areas in South Texas and the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and northern Tamaulipas.
Between 3 and 5 inches of rain were expected along northern parts of Texas and some Louisiana coasts.
Parts of the lower to middle Texas coastal plain could possibly face tornadoes caused by Hanna on Saturday and early morning Sunday.
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Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor said his agency has been in constant communication with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott “to offer our support & coordinate response efforts.”
“We urge residents to #BeReady and take precaution,” Gaynor tweeted.
Abbott said at a press conference Saturday afternoon that he signed a disaster declaration for 32 Texas counties and has requested a federal emergency declaration as well.
“Just because a hurricane comes, doesn’t mean COVID-19 disappears,” the governor said, adding that hurricane shelters are getting sanitized and that he has mobilized testing teams to provide hundreds of oral swab tests per day.
A hundred medical personnel from the Texas National Guard have also been mobilized to provided medical help at shelters if necessary, according to the governor.
Abbott said officials anticipate “severe” and “life-threatening flash floods” in the Rio Grande Valley, adding that FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard are already in the state to help with the response.
The Associated Press contributed.