Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to strike Texas since 1961, slammed the Texas coastline late Friday and early Saturday, leaving thousands without power, damaging buildings and pouring down rain that is expected to cause catastrophic flooding in coming days.
The storm was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane — with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour — Saturday morning after making landfall near Rockport as a Category 4 storm and heading inland.
The scene there was one of “widespread devastation,” Rockport Mayor Charles Wax told CNN Saturday morning. Property damage was rampant, he said, and the loss of cellphone service and other means of communication had hampered emergency response efforts.
“As of right now, I do not have any confirmed deaths, mostly because the teams have not been able to fully assess the damage,” he said.
As the slow-moving storm moved inland, its wind speeds diminished. Still, Harvey continued to deluge wide swaths of coastal Texas, and the National Hurricane Center predicts catastrophic flooding over the coming days. The National Weather Service has issued flash-flood warnings for Houston and its surrounding areas.
As of Saturday morning, more than 200,000 Texans had lost power, according to the Electric Reliability Council, which operates the state’s power grid.
The storm first made landfall around 10 p.m. Friday with wind speeds around 130 miles per hour. Local news reports from Rockport indicated many buildings were damaged overnight. After a roof collapsed at a senior housing complex, at least 10 people there were taken to a nearby jail for treatment. A portion of Rockport High School caved in.
In Fort Bend County, near Houston, county officials said a possible tornado damaged homes and downed trees, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Three state prisons south of Houston started to evacuate Saturday morning as Hurricane Harvey caused water levels to rise on the Brazos River, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The Ramsey, Terrell and Stringfellow prisons in Rosharon hold about 4,500 inmates total. Inmates will be moved by bus to other prison facilities in East Texas. The state also evacuated the three prisons last May, said TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark, when flooding brought the river to record levels.
There has been minimal damage to other prison facilities in areas affected by the storm and many are running on generator power, Clark said.
The department said it is continuing to monitor the storm, and that additional supplies, staff and sandbags have been sent to affected prisons.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday night that President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, had approved the state’s request for a disaster declaration, which includes funding to provide “individual assistance, public assistance and hazard mitigation” in Texas.
"The White House is fully engaged, very helpful and very concerned about the people of Texas," Abbott told Fox News late Friday. "Texas has received everything that we asked for from the White House."
The governor is scheduled to give an update on the storm Saturday afternoon in Austin. Check back here for updates.
Additional reporting by Jolie McCullough.