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Live Updates: National Weather Service Says Texas Storm Is "Beyond Anything Experienced"

BuzzFeed News reporters Talal Ansari and Jim Dalrymple II are reporting from southeastern Texas. This post is no longer being updated. Go here for ongoing coverage of the storm and its aftermath.

Originally posted on
Updated on
REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A man walks through floods waters and onto the main road after surveying his property which was hit by Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas, U.S. August 26, 2017.

Here's What We Know:

  • At least two people died Saturday after Hurricane Harvey slammed into and drenched the Texas coast — one death was in Rockport and the other in Houston.
  • The person in Houston was found dead in her car after her vehicle was overcome by flood waters, officials told BuzzFeed News. Up to 14 other people were injured in Rockport.
  • Houston is now facing major, catastrophic flooding that the National Weather Service said would be historic.
  • The hurricane weakened to a tropical storm on Saturday afternoon and is hovering over the Texas coast. Officials and forecasters warned that the cyclone — bringing surging water levels, torrential rainfall, and high winds — is extremely dangerous and life-threatening.
  • The FEMA chief on Sunday said the relief operations will be going on for years.
  • Residents were warned to get on their roofs if they were threatened by rising flood waters. More than 1,000 high-water rescues were conducted in the area.
  • Harvey began a powerful Category 4 in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday. It was later downgraded to Category 2 and Category 1 as it slowed overland.
  • President Trump on Friday approved Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's request to declare a federal disaster as Harvey approached the state.

Updates

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Texans are desperately tweeting for help as 911 is inundated with calls

11711 WoodShadow Houston, Tx 77013 A mom and 5 kids stuck on their roof. Please send Help, 911 is not responding anymore.

As scores of desperate locals wait to be rescued from their flooded homes in Houston, Texas, 911 services are "at capacity" and officials have urged people not to call unless they are in life-threatening danger.

On social media, many Houstonians tweeted they were still trapped and waiting for help.

Lauren Fields, 19, who is waiting to be rescued with her 11-year-old brother and mother, told BuzzFeed News from her home that they had been desperately trying to get through to the emergency services for hours.

"We call 911, they hang up on us. We call 911, the number’s busy. We call 911, they transferred us to flood department to transfer us back to 911 and then the phone gets disconnected,” she said.

Others reported similar experiences when contacted by BuzzFeed News. One young woman from Huntsville, Texas, was struggling to get help for her disabled parents who were home alone in the Sagemont neighborhood.

“I’m just worried because I'm not there to help,” she told BuzzFeed News.

Meanwhile, officials have urged residents and locals not to ring 911 unless the situation was life threatening. In a press conference Sunday, Houston's mayor Sylvester Turner said officials had responded to more than 2,500 calls, and 1,000 more are in the queue waiting to be serviced.

Read more here.

— Rose Troup Buchanan and Remy Smidt

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"This is the scenario we were planning for but we were hoping wouldn't actually play out," Red Cross spokeswoman Bristel Minsker told BuzzFeed News. "It’s basically worst-case scenario."

"It’s pretty devastating and it’s going to keep going," she said, with heavy rains expected across large swaths of Texas over the next several days. Some areas received about 27 inches of rain between Thursday night and Sunday morning, weather officials have reported.

Minsker said close to 2,000 people stayed in shelters getting Red Cross help last night, "and numbers are growing quickly." Minsker, who is currently on the ground in Austin, Texas, said more shelters are continuing to open up.

—Zahra Hirji

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As local officials struggle to respond to distress calls and FEMA prepares for an anticipated years-long recovery process for southeast Texas, the National Weather Service says Hurricane Harvey is an "unprecedented" weather event, "beyond anything experienced" in the US.

"This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced. Follow orders from officials to ensure safety. #Harvey," the government agency tweeted on Sunday.

This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced. Follow orders from officials t… https://t.co/UkEGUihDrU

The map attached to the tweet shows that parts of southeastern Texas, including Houston, had received more than 15 inches of rain by 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, with more rain expected for many areas in the coming days.

Some areas in Houston and to the west of the city could receive up to 50 inches of rain, which would be a record for Texas, NWS meteorologist Patrick Burke told the Associated Press.

Burke said the average rainfall for Houston is likely to add up to roughly 40 inches.

- Nidhi Prakash

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Here's what President Trump was tweeting about during Hurricane Harvey

As Hurricane Harvey caused havoc in Texas, President Trump tweeted prolifically, both about the storm and political issues such as NAFTA and a Mexican border wall.

For several hours on Saturday, Trump focused on the situation in Texas. Many of his tweets praised the first responders on the ground; others focused on the magnitude of the storm itself.

But on Sunday morning, Trump's twitter feed started to veer towards his political battles. He criticized Democrats in Missouri, discussed his proposed Mexican border wall, and then moved on to the North American Free Trade Agreement, of which he has repeatedly threatened to pull out.

Read more here.

Paul McLeod

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As Harvey continues to rain down in and around Houston, the city's mayor, Sylvester Turner urged residents to stay in their homes at a press conference on Sunday.

"The flooding is occurring all over the city, all over the county," Turner said. "There are not many places for you to go. The safest place is for you to be in your home."

The rain is expected to last for several days, although there may be a brief lull Sunday afternoon. "This is pretty much like the second day. We anticipate that there will be several other days," Turned said.

When asked why Houston didn't issue a mandatory evacuation, he responded: "Please bear in mind until, really even now, no one knew where the storm was going. If you were going to San Antonio, you were going to run into water. If you were going to Austin, the same thing. So the best approach was to stay in the city, in the county, stay in your home, and stay off the streets."

Turned acknowledged that there had been a few fatalities, but that if you issue an evacuation and put everyone on the roads, "then you are really asking for a major fatalities."

Since midnight, officials have responded to more 2500 calls, and 1,000 more are in the queue waiting to be serviced. Most of these calls were for people in a vehicle on the road and struck in flooding. The mayor acknowledged that not everyone calling 911 has yet to get a response. "Let’s give a preference to the life-threatening calls," he said.

—Zahra Hirji

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As rain and flooding from Hurricane Harvey continue to hit southeastern Texas, FEMA chief Brock Long said the state is going to be recovering from the damage for years to come.

Long, on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday morning, said FEMA is preparing long-term recovery efforts in addition to the nearly 5,000 people on the ground assisting with emergency power, search and rescue, and shelter operations.

"FEMA is going to be there for years, sir. This disaster recovery -- this disaster will be a landmark," Long said.

"We're already pushing forward recovery housing teams. We're already pushing forward forces to be on the ground, to implement national flood insurance program policies as well, and doing the inspection that we need," he said. "So, we're setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years."

Asked about comparisons to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005, Long said "this event is nothing like Katrina."

"Every storm impacts different jurisdictions differently. Every category 4 storm is different," he said. "This is a storm that the United States has not seen yet. It started with a category 4 with storm surge right off the coast. And now it's bleeding into a multiple day inland, inland threat from torrential rainfall."

The Trump administration headed into this emergency with several key vacancies. The agencies without a permanent leader currently include the National Hurricane Center, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. FEMA is also awaiting confirmation for two deputy directors.

Long told State of the Union host Jake Tapper that "we have no concern" about those open leadership positions.

"I don't even have time to worry about it right now," he said. "What I've seen inside my agency I've got the most dedicated people in the federal government, great communication lines with the president."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, on State of the Union earlier, said he has spoken to the president "several times" along with cabinet members and Long, the head of FEMA. He said he added the Houston area, which experienced what the National Weather Service calls "catastrophic" flooding overnight, to his disaster declaration today.

"Before today I made a disaster declaration that the president granted which meant all the assets from FEMA were triggered. Today we are adding Harris county to that. That’s where Houston is, to that disaster declaration and indications are that will be granted. We’re having a white house that is being very responsive, very concerned about the people of Texas and a tremendous help to us."

This morning, before addressing the emergency, Trump tweeted about an autobiographical book by Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke.

A great book by a great guy, highly recommended! https://t.co/3jbDDN8YmJ

He then tweeted that he will visit Texas "as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption."

I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.

He then tweeted about a trip to Missouri, "that I won by a lot in '16", he wrote.

I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in '16. Dem C.M. is opposed to big tax cuts. Republican will win S!

He then returned to the subject of Harvey, writing that "We have an all out effort going, and going well!"

Wow - Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!

- Nidhi Prakash

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Catastrophic flooding in the Houston area is expected to worsen and could "become historic," the National Weather Service has warned.

Flash flooding is expected to continue in other areas of southeast Texas as well. Hourly rain totals in the region have reached 3 inches with local amounts of up to 7 inches expected. About 35 inches of rain is expected to fall in the area on Sunday.

Over the past 24 hours, Houston/Galveston has received 24.10 inches of measured rain. The rainfall has made August the wettest month on record for Houston.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

Daylight reveals the extent of flooding in Houston #hurricane #harvey #Houston buffalobayoupark #flood #flooding #…… https://t.co/OV8CsivhFf

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Authorities warn people living in flood zone to get on the roof of their homes if water continue to rise

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT HAS REQUESTED: IF HIGHEST FLOOR OF YOUR HOME BECOMES DANGEROUS...GET ON THE ROOF. #houwx… https://t.co/zO8ur279Fb

Authorities in Texas say flooding in the area is at "epic catastrophic" levels around the Houston and Galveston areas and are warning residents to stay put.

Officials have issued advice requesting people do not stay in attics if flood waters are rising. "If highest floor of your home becomes dangerous ... get on the roof. Call 911 for help and stay on the line until answered," the National Weather Service in Houston advised.

Heavy rain is still spreading across the region and flash flooding warnings remain in effect in the following areas:

  • Eastern Grimes County
  • Northeastern Galveston County
  • Montgomery County
  • San Jacinto County
  • Chambers County
  • Liberty County
  • Southern Polk County
  • Southern Walker County
  • Northeastern Harris County
  • Eastern Wharton County
  • South central Fort Bend County
  • Brazoria County
  • Northeastern Matagorda County

The NWS added that, as of 5am, more than 1000 high water rescues had been conducted in the area.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

Radar Update 6:47 AM CDT: A FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY remains in effect for much of SE TX. PLEASE continue to STAY PUT.… https://t.co/Ic2m0pAXJe

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Even as Harvey continued to weaken, vast swaths of southeast Texas were hit by deluge of torrential rains early Sunday, signaling the worst is far from over for towns and cities in the path of the storm.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted early Sunday about an unconfirmed report that a woman and child had died inside a submerged vehicle along Interstate 10 outside of Houston. If confirmed, the fatalities would bring the storm's death toll to four.

The National Weather Service in Houston extended a “Flash Flood Emergency For Catastrophic Life-Threatening Flooding” over west and central Harris County, as well as other areas of southeastern Texas until Sunday morning, warning people not to travel until the danger has passed.

“Water rescues are ongoing and emergency services are severely impacted,” the agency said in a bulletin posted around 3 a.m. local time.

Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center said that the storm remained essentially parked over southeast Texas, dumping rain with maximum sustained winds up to 45 miles per hour.

UPDATE as of 3:00 AM CDT: LIST OF ONGOING FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCIES. Flash flooding and tornado warnings are also ong… https://t.co/Ab5vKJ4poI

Images posted to social media showed major flooding on highways and neighborhoods around Houston, as entire areas of southeast Texas were inundated by more than 15 inches of rain in a night.

The Harris County Flood Control District said Saturday night that they were getting reports of people climbing into attics to escape the rising water. Meanwhile, local and state officials pleaded with residents on social media not to leave their homes.

"The key to this is to not panic and to just take your time," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said, narrating evacuation efforts in a Periscope video as he walked through a flooded street early Sunday.

“It’s sad—breaks your heart for our city and our state," Acevedo said. "But it’s Texas. We’ll get through it."

Flooding in League City, TX. How tall is a fire hydrant? #khou #HouNews https://t.co/KWD0LQ6umE

@HoustonOEM Flooding in SW Houston (westbury)

Side streets in Houston's Montrose neighborhood are impassable. Live coverage of flash flood emergency ->… https://t.co/ji7tnOfMNW

Experts were stunned by the magnitude of the rains.

“It’s almost impossible to put into words. Meteorologists have been trying to imagine what this would look and feel like for the past few days, but it’s just surreal to watch,” meteorologist Eric Holthaus told BuzzFeed News. “The prediction was for 40 inches of rain in five days. They didn’t expect all of that to come in one night.

"What we're seeing now is beyond the worst fears people had even earlier in the day," Holthaus added, noting that the rains are expected to continue hitting the region through Sunday. “There are going to be neighborhoods of Houston that will get 30 inches of rain in 24 hours. So we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

—Grace Wyler

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Rhonda and Randy Johnson didn't know what they would find when they returned home after Hurricane Harvey swept through their seaside neighborhood in Rockport, Texas, but they feared the worst.

"We expected to come back to nothing," Rhonda said Saturday as she pointed to the massive oak branches the wind had ripped from the trees in front of her yard. "We thought it was gone."

In the end, the Johnsons were relatively lucky. Though the storm knocked large trees into their roof, flung a tool shed into the air, and crushed a wooden fence, their home was still standing.

Others in the area did not fare as well. When Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm Friday night, Rockport and surrounding towns on the southeastern coast of Texas felt the brunt of the storm's force. Hours later, entire neighborhoods lay in ruin.

Thousands of residents like the Johnsons left their homes for the heaviest part of the storm, abiding stark mandatory evacuation warnings as the storm approached Friday. By Saturday, some were making their way back home to survey the damage.

Read more here.

—Jim Dalrymple II and Talal Ansari

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One person dead in Houston as storm hammers city with heavy rain

Nick Oxford / Reuters

Irving Lebleu helps Keshia Walker push her car out of a flooded intersection in Houston, Saturday.

A woman was found dead inside her car in Houston Saturday night after her vehicle was apparently overcome by water in a flooded street, making it the second death in Texas linked to Hurricane Harvey.

"Just driving, overtaken by water," Houston Mayor Silvester Turner said a press conference.

An official with Houston's Emergency Operation Center told BuzzFeed News the woman was found in her vehicle at about 9:15 pm, local time. Officials are still working to confirm the cause of death.

Though not directly hit by Hurricane Harvey's strongest initial blow as it approached Texas, Houston officials have been expecting heavy rains to eventually reach and hover around the city for at least four days, sparking flooding in several areas.

Between 9 and 10 pm Saturday, the National Weather Service reported in and around Houston had received nearly 4 inches of rain.

@abc13houston Street filled with water at Louisiana and Polk, downtown Houston.

This is Allen Parkway in front of our studios. Everyone please don't drive. #KHOU11 #Houston #HurricaneHarvey

That's prompted city officials to shut down many city streets Saturday, and to urge residents not to drive.

"It's dropping a lot of water and the streets are treacherous," Sylvester said. "It makes absolutely no sense for anyone to be out on the road unless it's some sort of emergency."

To underscore the point, Sylvester said he and Chief of Police Art Acevedo had walked in the rain because of flooded streets in order to make it to the same press conference.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for the area until further notice.

According to the agency's latest forecast, the city could see up to 20 additional inches through the week, but city officials said they are also worried about the impact flooded bayous could have in the city.

— Salvador Hernandez

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About 200,000 people in and near Corpus Christi, Texas remained without power Saturday due to damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, as strong wind gusts prevented repair crews from being able to make repairs to downed power lines, American Electric Power said in a statement.

"Although weather conditions have improved significantly, wind conditions must be below 30 miles per hour before bucket trucks can be used to remove hazards such as downed power lines—the first step in the restoration process," the company said Saturday. "A key concern is based on the remnants of the storm and the possibility for additional rains and flooding over the next few days."

According to the National Weather Service, wind speeds in Corpus Christi are expected to remain at about 25 mph, with gusts as strong as 31 mph.

In the statement, American Electric Power said they hope to update customers Sunday with more information on when power might be restored.

— Salvador Hernandez

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More than 8 inches of rain has already fallen in some areas of Texas since Hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday, but officials said Saturday that more than twice that amount is still expected to fall.

La Grange, a town 100 miles east of San Antonio, has seen 8.35 inches of rain Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. The agency predicted that some local areas could see as much as 30 inches of rain through Tuesday.

Although significantly weaker than the hurricane-strong gusts that whipped through Texas Friday, winds were still clocked at as much as 58 mph at Randolph Air Fore Base in Universal City, Texas, just 20 miles northeast of San Antonio.

7:10pm - Here are the highest winds and rainfall totals that we have seen so far today.

With the storm continuing to loom over eastern Texas, some areas east of the I-35 highway are still expected to see as much as 20 inches of rain from the storm, according to the National Weather Service. The highway cuts through Austin and San Antonio.

In Austin, National Weather Service officials said that anywhere between 8 to 15 inches of rain could fall in the Austin metro area, while downtown San Antonio could see anywhere between 5 and 10 inches of rain.

Weather predictions are relying on the storm's path and speed: As of Saturday evening, the National Weather Service said the storm was located about 40 miles northwest of Victoria, and moving in a northeast path at about 2 mph.

— Salvador Hernandez

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The oil and gas industry in Texas could face weeks of disruptions as a result of Hurricane Harvey

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

An oil refinery in Corpus Christi ahead of Hurricane Harvey's arrival.

With Tropical Storm Harvey still wreaking havoc in Texas, its potential impact on the state's oil and gas industry are still largely unknown. But state regulators are anticipating some problems, such as leaks and spills.

"For this size of an event, we expect there is going to be something that we have to respond to," Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton, the state's chief energy regulator, told BuzzFeed News. "I hope it's not going to be anything major."

Sitton said that as of Saturday afternoon companies had not reported any incidents, such as spills associated with oil and natural gas production, pipelines, wells, and other related facilities in the storm's path. But he noted that it is still raining across much of the state, and operators may not yet had a chance to inspect their facilities.

"Somewhere around 1 million barrels a day of refining capacity was shut down," in anticipation of the storm, Sitton said. That's more than 5% of the nations' refining capacity offline, and includes all refineries shut down in Corpus Christi, as well as another nearby refinery, and a few facilities in Houston that at least partially suspended operations in preparation for the storm.

There were closures on the production side of the industry as well, including at the Eagle Ford, one of the state's largest oilfields. Sitton said that based on anecdotal reports and experience in the industry, he's expecting "anywhere from a third to two-thirds of the production would be shut in" at Eagle Ford, which produces 870,000 barrels of crude oil a day, or about 8 percent of the nation's oil.

Sitton said he did not have a complete list of shuttered oil and gas facilities, however, because there's no standard protocol in place for Texas operators to inform officials of closures. It will likely take between two and four weeks weeks for regulators to piece together the full magnitude of the energy-related shutdowns.

"It's going to be a while that the state, and in particular the companies that operate these facilities, are dealing with the aftermath of this storm," Sitton said.

Meanwhile, federal officials at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement are tracking offshore energy facilities across the Gulf of Mexico. The BSSE reported that as of Saturday, 112 oil and gas platforms, along with 5 rigs, had been evacuated, and nearly 25% and 26% of the region's oil and gas production, respectively, had been shut in.

–Zahra Hirji

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Seventeen people have been rescued by the US Coast Guard throughout Texas as Hurricane Harvey continued to drench the eastern part of the state, officials said Saturday.

Among those rescued were 15 who were aboard three different distressed vessels around Port Aransas, near Corpus Christi.

Seven people were airlifted from a tugboat near Aransas Pass, and four others were rescued from a boat that was taking on water, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Four others were also rescued from another vessel by Coast Guard helicopters, Capt. Tony Hahn, commander of the agency's Corpus Christi sector, said in a statement. The Coast Guard also rescued a man, a woman, and a dog who became stranded in Rockport, Texas, about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.

The three were taken to Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi to be treated, and were reported in good condition, the statement read.

The Coast Guard has also been working with local officials to coordinate rescues as the storm continues to hover over much of eastern Texas, US Coast Guard Sector Commander Kevin Oditt said in a press conference with reporters Saturday.

"We have heavy rainfall, we continue to expect heavy winds and we're going to prepare to be able to support the (Emergency Operation Centers) in any potential flooding," Oditt said.

The Coast Guard is also working assess when the region's ports can be reopened in the aftermath of the storm. Cruise ships that were expected to dock in eastern Texas this weekend have made plans to replenish supplies in other ports, including New Orleans, while they wait for a decision on when ports will be reopened, Oditt said.

The Coast Guard has reopened the port of Brownsville, but others remain closed.

Oditt said about 80 ships left Texas ports before the storm, and about 100 ships—many of them container vessels—are expected to be waiting to dock again once the storm begins to weaken.
— Salvador Hernandez

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At least four tornadoes have touched down in Harris County, Texas

Tornados definitely touched down at least 4 times. @HCSOTexas assessing various damage. I'm headed there now. #HurricaneHarvey

Tornadoes have touched down at least four times in the Houston area, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Saturday.

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for Harris County, with radar showed a rotating cell near Cypress or Jersey Village. NWS indicated that additional tornadoes could develop, and has also put a tornado warning in place for Grimes, Washington, Montgomery, and Waller counties that will remain in effect until 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

Videos posted to social media showed a tornado touching down in the area, and apparently causing some damage, although the extent is still unknown.

@abc13houston TORNADO ON BARKER AND WEST!!!!!!

@HellerWeather @HerzogWeather 5 min ago - tornado on the ground!! Just S/SW of Cypress #houwx #Harvey2017… https://t.co/mS1anFhjkK

TORNADO FORMING!! On barker & 290, where they are building the new Towne Lakes houses. TAKE SHELTER!!!!!

Truck flipped, trees down along Barker-Cypress near 290 in NW Harris Co. Sheriff deputy says a tornado touched down… https://t.co/R9hAqetx6R

–Otillia Steadman

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President Trump was briefed on the situation in Texas and the impact of Hurricane Harvey via teleconference while he stayed at Camp David during the weekend.

The White House released photos of the the president's video conference with Vice President Mike Pence, as well as officials from Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Chief of Staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Advisor Thomas Bossert, National Security Chief of Staff Keith Kellogg, and Acting Secretary of DHS Elaine Duke took part in the call, according to the White House.

Trump has also been tweeting from Camp David, thanking volunteers and airing support for local officials.

— Salvador Hernandez

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Tropical Storm Harvey is "barely moving" and remains hovered over a large part of Texas, according to the latest National Hurricane Center update.

"Harvey has been nearly stationary and little motion is anticipated during the next few days," the NHC statement said. Currently, Harvey is causing significant rain in Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin and other smaller Texan cities.

The biggest threats from the storm are expected to come after the initial hurricane, from flooding. Torrential rains will continue, the NHC said Saturday afternoon, with 15-25 inches expected by Thursday.

– Amber Jamieson

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Houston’s mayor warned its citizens Saturday to brace for a “four or five day event” as rain continues to fall in the area.

The city was not in Hurricane Harvey’s direct path or under evacuation orders, but it will continue to receive major rainfall and flooding is expected, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

“We still could expect anywhere between two to three feet, not inches, two to three feet, of water, over the next three to four days,” Turner said in an interview with NBC Nightly News posted by the City of Houston.

“We expect probably five to eight inches before the day is over, but this is just day one,” Turner said.

In a CNN interview on Saturday, Turner said people are being asked to shelter in place and be patient. He said the city is prepared and has emergency initiatives at the ready.

“This will be a four or five day event,” Turner said.

—Lissandra Villa

Here's Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on CNN earlier. Says city is prepared but warns of a four to five day event b… https://t.co/1HzOFgsW0z

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Pets and other animals are vulnerable across Texas as flooding continues

Authorities in Texas have said they will arrest anyone who has chained or tied up their pets as flooding continues in Texas.

"I promise you that I will hold anyone accountable [anyone] that unlawfully restrains their dog in extreme weather conditions," said Police Chief Stephen Carlisle of East Forest Texas. "Dogs are your family members too."

Last year, relief crews had told the officer about a dog tied to a tree out of their reach, who had been unable to escape after a disaster, the officer wrote on Facebook.

"The dog barked and barked as the water kept rising, until the water got high enough and the barks stopped," he wrote.

In Texas, it is illegal to restrain a pet outside during "extreme weather conditions" or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Others in the state have reported finding stray animals and attempted to reunite them with their owners.

When storm chaser Aaron Jayjack stopped in the town of Runge on his way back to Austin from Victoria, he "picked up a little passenger," he said in a video he tweeted Saturday afternoon.

"I stopped for gas and this guy was following me down the road, and when I stopped he jumped into the jeep," he said. "I need help trying to find this guy's owner. I'll call him Harvey."

Displaced dog jumped into my jeep. Please share to help find owner! #harvey #hurricane #displacedpets

In Corpus Christi, animal care services said they would accept lost pets on a temporary basis beginning Saturday afternoon, with 30 designated open kennels.

"Many pets were separated from their families during Hurricane Harvey. CCACS will assist in helping reunite these pets by verifying microchips, following-up on information provided on tags," they wrote in a statement. "Lost pets typically have tags, a collar and/or well groomed."

The Veterinary Emergency Response Team from Texas A&M University also traveled to McCampbell-Porter Airport Saturday to help with displaced and injured animals.

Creatures other than house pets are also at risk as flooding continues. BuzzFeed News reporter Talal Ansari photographed one such stranded farm animal outside Rockport, water up to its chest, inside a fenced area.

Water levels are rising here, and humans are not the only ones in danger from the floods #HurricaneHarvey

—Cora Lewis

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One person has died in Rockport, Texas, because of Hurricane Harvey.

"It was someone caught in a fire and his house in the storm and we didn't know about it until today," said Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills, Jr in a press conference with the town's mayor.

The person has not yet been identified.

"But right now with just one fatality, we've been very blessed, with what we've had," said Rockport Mayor Charles Wax.

He added that 12-14 people have been injured. "Minor injuries," he said. "Slip, fell. Scratches, cuts. Broken leg, things like that."

County Judge and Mayor confirm one fatality in Rockport, Texas, from Hurricane Harvey:

– Amber Jamieson

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Towns surrounding Rockport have been badly hit

Photos from Bayside, Refugio, and streets east of Victoria — from BuzzFeed News reporter Talal Ansari, who is in Texas — show wreckage, crumpled signs, and an overturned, abandoned semi truck.

Bayside is a ghost town #HurricaneHarvey

#HurricaneHarvey hit the town of Refugio, 30mi north of Rockport, hard.

Encountered this overturned semi-truck 15 miles east of Victoria. Driver not inside, we checked. Hope they're safe.… https://t.co/SAklsWaXWX

—Talal Ansari

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President Donald Trump spoke with VP Mike Pence and other senior administration officials in a meeting about Harvey on Saturday morning, telling them that departments and agencies should focus on the "number one priority of saving lives."

A readout from the teleconference is as follows:

President Trump emphasized his expectations that all departments and agencies stay fully engaged and positioned to support his number one priority of saving lives. He reminded his team that the full impacts of this storm will occur over the next few days with heavy rains and flooding. The President directed his Federal team to remain fully engaged and in support of the Governors of Texas and Louisiana. He sends his thanks to the many volunteer and faith-based organizations that are dedicating their time and effort to helping their fellow Americans. The President and Vice President extend their thoughts and prayers to those affected.

Trump will travel to Texas early next week, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Friday, before Trump headed to Camp David for the weekend.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price declared a public health emergency in Texas on Saturday in response to the storm, making it easier for Medicare recipients to receive medical help.

“We recognize the gravity of the situation in Texas, and the declaration of a public health emergency will provide additional flexibility and authority to help those who have been impacted by the storm," said Price in a statement.

– Amber Jamieson

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Three Texas prisons evacuated 4,500 inmates due to risks of flooding

Three prisons in Rosharon, Texas — Ramsey, Terrell, and Stringfellow — were evacuated Saturday as the Brazos River continues to rise due to heavy rainfall from Hurricane Harvey.

Approximately 4,500 prisoners were evacuated to facilities in East Texas Saturday morning, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said. The inmates were transported by TDCJ buses, accompanied by correctional officers and other staff members.

The evacuated prisoners will not be available for visits at the prisons in East Texas, but will have the ability to use the telephone system, officials said.

The TDCJ has also set up an emergency command center in Huntsville, operating 24-7, delivered additional food and water to the East Texas prisons, and delivered sandbags to the prisons at risk of flooding.

Visitations and volunteer programming at more than two dozen Texas prisons were cancelled Friday due to the impact of the storm.

-- Cora Lewis

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Texas Governor: "There is a potential for very dramatic flooding"

Talking with Port Lavaca Mayor in response to #Harvey.

Gov. Greg Abbott on the phone with local officials before a Saturday press conference

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned that "there is a potential for very dramatic flooding" resulting from tropical storm Harvey in a press conference on Saturday.

Abbott said he's heard from local officials that there has already been about 20 inches of rain dumped in the Corpus Christi area, and about 16 inches around Houston. "And our biggest concern is the possibility of between 20 and 30 more inches of rain" in those areas in the coming days, he said. The National Hurricane Center has projected there could be up to 40 inches of rain in some places.

"Because of the flooding, one of the top focal points that we are concerned about is ongoing rescue and recovery. We want to do everything we possibly can to keep people out of rising water," he said. There's already been several search and rescue operations conducted due to the storm.

There are more than 338,000 power outages in the impacted region, "and it will still be several days, perhaps, before those outages will be able to be addressed," Abbott said.

There have been no confirmed reports of fatalities from the storm.

– Zahra Hirji

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Residents of the small beach town of Port Aransas, off the Texas coast, have been told to stay away by the mayor after Hurricane Harvey hit the city overnight and destroyed a trailer park.

The Pioneer trailer park "is a 100% loss," said Mayor Charles Bugan in a Facebook post, adding that authorities are conducting search and rescue in the park.

Located on Mustang Island, Port Aransas, has a population of just over 4,000 people.

"We're in the process of doing search and rescue, there are no confirmed deaths at this time in the City of Port Aransas," Bujan told a local Corpus Christi TV station.

"I encourage residents not to return to island at this point," wrote the mayor in his Facebook post. Photos and videos from the area show boats washed ashore into the middle of streets, trailers flipped upside down, and much debris.

A mandatory evacuation of the town took place on Thursday, but it's believed some residents remained behind.

A mobile park is destroyed in Port Aransas,Texas #HurricaneHarvey #Harvey #HarveyStorm #stxwx #Texas

Lots of damage in Port Aransas after #HurricaneHarvey #Harvey #HarveyStorm #stxwx #Texas #PortAransas

Highway 35 near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is completely inundated. @NWSCorpus @rqhart @tjc_12 #txwx

More view from Port Aransas, Texas. #HurricaneHarvey #Harvey #HarveyStorm #stxwx #Texas

National guard already in Port Aransas to help.

– Amber Jamieson

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Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm #Harvey Advisory 25A: Harvey Becomes a Tropical Storm Inland Over Texas. https://t.co/VqHn0uj6EM

Flooding remains a major concern, with the NHC warning of an "extremely serious flooding event unfolding."

Additional rainfall of 15-30 inches is expected over the middle and upper coast of Texas.

"Rainfall of this magnitude will cause catastrophic and life-threatening flooding," notes the NHC.

A storm surge warning is in effect for Port Aransas to High Island in Texas.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect from Baffin Bay to High Island, Texas, according to a Saturday afternoon update from the NHC.

Maximum sustained winds have decreased to around 70 mph and are expected to drop even further over the next 48 hours.

More tornadoes could also occur, warns the NHC. "Tornadoes are possible today and tonight near the middle and upper Texas coast into far southwest Louisiana," reads its update on Saturday.

– Amber Jamieson

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has now declared a disaster declaration for 50 counties.

Abbott proclaimed disaster declarations for 20 counties on Saturday as Harvey continued to move inland with heavy rains, adding to the list of 30 counties from August 23.

– Zahra Hirji

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Corpus Christi suffers downed power lines and traffic lights

Corpus Christi, Texas, was the closest large city to Hurricane Harvey when it made landfall last night with over 130 mile per hour winds – but the damage seems to be not as severe as that sustained in small coastal towns like Rockport and Port Aransas.

Photos from Corpus Christi, population 325,000, shows traffic lights, roofs and trees collapsed during the storm. Cars were stuck in flood waters, signs fell off buildings and windows of shops were blown out.

A home caught fire during the storm and burned down, also destroying several cars nearby. Authorities spend Saturday trying to clear roads of debris.

Much road debris and downed power lines. Most traffic lights are out. Please be patient. Let us get things safe for your return. #Harvey

City crews are working diligently across the City to clear roads. If you are out and about, SLOW DOWN and abide by… https://t.co/4cZNJsfKg8

Sign down forcing I-37 closure at Navigation Blvd. in Corpus Christi. #HurricaneHarvey

Paul Johnson, "it's all right, it's life." ~ Hillcrest Corpus Christi #HurricaneHarvey

– Amber Jamieson

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Several Texas airports have closed, stranding and delaying travelers

Responding to the severe weather, airports across Texas have closed and airlines have cancelled and delayed flights, some through Monday. Aransas County Airport near Rockport suffered the most severe damage.

Severe damage @ Aransas County Airport near Rockport & Fulton Texas. #HurricaneHarvey

Major damage in Rockport, Texas here is the airport @breakingweather #Harvey

The average flight headed to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston was experiencing an average delay of 3 hours and 30 minutes Saturday, and the airport grounded departing flights from Friday to Saturday morning, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's Air Traffic Control System Command Center.

Flight tracker FlightAware reported 323 cancelled flights out of Bush Intercontinental, with 24 delays, and 29 cancelled out of Dallas-Fort Worth Saturday.

Corpus Christi International Airport was closed as of Friday afternoon, as was the Victoria Regional Airport. Both were slated to reopen Monday.

The Calhoun County Airport also closed Saturday, with an expected reopen date of September 6. Local media reported Hobby Airport experienced a total of 114 flight cancellations and 19 delays.

Currently sitting at the SFO airport because our flight to Texas got cancelled yawp life's great

Good morning guys I arrived at Texas and here's my today's plan. Stuck in Dallas airport for 12 hours. That's it

-- Cora Lewis

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While Harvey's winds continue to weaken, the hurricane's heavy rain threat will persist for days.

Harvey remains a Category 1 storm as it slowly moves inland, now with sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, according to a new National Hurricane Center advisory. That's down from 85 mph earlier in the morning. Consequently, there's still a hurricane warning in effect inland around the storm, but the threat has been downgraded for the coast.

Heavy rains and storm surge continue to threaten the state, however. "Harvey drenching Texas," officials warned. "Torrential rains will continue for a few more days."

Red Cross had 24 shelters open across the eastern half of Texas last night. Over 1400 people stayed there, a Red Cross spokeswoman told BuzzFeed News.

—Zahra Hirji

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Coastal city of Rockport suffers severe damage to airport, high school and homes

Rockport, Texas, a beachside city with around 10,000 residents, was one of the towns worst hit by Hurricane Harvey overnight – and photos show entire buildings have collapsed.

Mayor Charles Wax told the Weather Channel that Hurricane Harvey caused "widespread devastation" to the town, and that Rockport was hit "right on the nose."

Photos show whole apartment buildings along the beachfront have collapsed, and a badly damaged boat storage building. The airport has been dramatically damaged, with photos showing crushed planes and a collapsed hanger. The high school and many local buildings, shops and homes were also severely impacted by the storm.

Wax later told CNN that a refuge of last resort had about 2,000 people in it and that some people from the community had taken shelter in churches and schools. He had not yet heard of any fatalities, but "cross-functional teams including EMS, fire department, police, and public works employees" were out assessing the damage.

"I'm hopeful that the vast majority left," Wax said. "I know that some people did remain."

Emergency broadcast: The entire area Holiday Park Beach,Fulton, Rockport, apartment buildings have collapsed. Help… https://t.co/I260Y9B81U

It looks like a lake, but it's actually a rural field, a few miles outside Rockport

Our shelter in Rockport, Texas literally swaying. The suction feels like windows about to get sucked out. #HurricaneHarvey

BREAKING: Massive damage to Rockport-Fulton HS after #Harvey makes landfall.

It's really hard to navigate the neighborhoods all the old trees are stripped or torn down. #rockport

Catastrophic damage in Rockport, Texas. Many buildings destroyed, power lines blocking roads. #HurricaneHarvey… https://t.co/9eOBfobS6g

– Amber Jamieson and Cora Lewis

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Hundreds of thousands are without power in affected areas

Saturday morning, hundreds of thousands of people in areas of Texas hit by the storm were without power and phone service.

As of 7 a.m., approximately 293,000 customers are without power in the ERCOT region. 157 circuits are out of service. #HurricaneHarvey

Customer outages have increased to more than 300,000 in the ERCOT region. #HurricaneHarvey

Local media and power companies reported downed lines and exploding transformers, warning customers to stay away from them, since they can remain "live" and dangerous even when felled.

Members of the Texas National Guard helped assess the damage.

Our #Texas #NationalGuard are currently out in #HurricaneHarvey helping assess the damage in Victoria,TX.… https://t.co/5uM3axRAjh

-- Cora Lewis

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Harvey slows but surge and rain threats remain

557 AM: Flood Advisories are in effect for locations in the green polygons.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that by 6.a.m. local time Harvey had slowed to winds of 85 mph, making it technically a Category 1 storm, but surge and rain threats remain.

Harvey is producing huge amounts of rain over southeastern Texas, the NHC said, with an automated rain gauge near Victoria reporting 16.43 inches of rain in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tide gauge at Port Lavaca measured a water level of 6.6 feet above the historic average for high water height.

–Matthew Champion

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Harvey has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane after slamming into the Texas coast.

The latest bulletin from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Harvey had maximum winds of 100 mph, was 30 miles southwest of Victoria, Texas, and moving northwest at a speed of 6 mph.

The NHC said Harvey was likely to become a tropical storm later today, and "meander over southeastern Texas through the middle of next week".

However, a hurricane warning is still in effect for Baffin Bay to Port O'Connor, and a storm surge warning – indicating a danger of life-threatening water levels – is in place for Baffin Bay to High Island.

In Port Aransas to Port O'Connor, the NHC said a combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide could see a surge of up to 12 feet.

Harvey has already seen up to 10 inches of rainfall reported in a few locations in southeastern Texas, while tornadoes are also possible today and tonight near the middle and upper Texas coast, into southwest Louisiana.

–Matthew Champion

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Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Rockport, Texas, Friday night, the National Hurricane Center announced, making it the strongest storm to strike the continental US in more than a decade.

After slowing down over southeast Texas, the hurricane was downgraded to a Category 3, with sustained winds of about 125 mph. Still, officials warned that the system was expected to cause "catastrophic flooding" due to heavy rainfall and a storm surge.

Already coastal communities were reporting widespread damage to buildings, and in the form of flooding, downed trees and road signs.

In Rockport, businesses and a high school were heavily damaged, and dozens of people had to be evacuated from the Fairfield Inn, according to the National Weather Service.

Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth told KIII 3 News that the roof at a senior housing complex had also collapsed, briefly trapping some while others were taken to a local jail for assessment and treatment. The city's courthouse was also been severely damaged.

In Corpus Christi, officials warned residents that Harvey threatened the local water supply and urged people to boil their water prior to washing hands, brushing teeth, drinking, and other forms of consumption.

Meanwhile, a map from electricity provider AEP Texas showed thousands of customers had already experienced power outages in the region on Friday.

—Zahra Hirji and Jason Wells

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Trump declares a major disaster for Texas

At the request of the Governor of Texas, I have signed the Disaster Proclamation, which unleashes the full force of government help!

As the strong winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Harvey started pounding the Texas coast on Friday night, President Trump announced that he had declared a major disaster for the state. This move frees up federal funds to help the state respond to the disaster.

Federal aid will be available to areas impacted by the storm starting August 23, and go towards supporting individuals, state and local governments, and some private nonprofits in at least six counties, according to the White House.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had sent a letter earlier in the day asking Trump to issue a presidential disaster declaration for the state.

"I want to thank the President and FEMA for their quick response in granting this disaster declaration," Abbott said in a statement. "We will continue to work with our federal and local partners on all issues relating to this storm, an I encourage Texans to continue heeding all warnings from local officials."

—Zahra Hirji

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Harvey strengthens to a Category 4 hurricane

NEW: #Harvey continues to intensify and is now a category 4 #hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph.… https://t.co/dId2by4Tz4

Hurricane Harvey strengthened into a Category 4 on Friday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center announced. The storm has sustained winds of 130 mph, and is 45 miles off the coast of Texas.

It is expected to make landfall "in the next few hours," NHC hurricane specialist Eric Blake told BuzzFeed News.

Such strong winds can severely damage roofs and the exterior walls of homes, as well as snap or uproot trees. They can also down power poles, possibly resulting in power outages lasting weeks to months.

The last Category 4 hurricane to hit the US was Charley back in 2004, which walloped Florida. Texas hasn't been struck by a Category 4 since 1961, however. That's when Hurricane Carla resulted in 46 deaths and more than 460 injuries.

—Zahra Hirji

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The storm approaching the Texas coastline now has sustained winds of 125 mph, according to a new National Hurricane Center advisory. That's up from 120 mph a few hours ago.

But the winds could be even stronger in certain locations, reaching up to 145 mph. To that end, the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi issued a strongly-worded extreme wind warning for five counties in south and south central Texas: Calhoun, Aransas, Nueces, San Patricio, and Refugio.

"TAKE COVER NOW! Treat these imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to the safe room in your shelter," the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi warned. "Take action now to protect your life!"

The rain predictions for Harvey have also gone up. Certain places could see up to 40 inches during the storm's duration.

"We do anticipate the threat for 15 to 30 inches of rainfall. We could see some locally higher amounts, up to 40 inches in some of these areas,” Daniel Porter from the US National Weather Service said in a video announcement. “It looks like the heaviest rainfall is going to be focused in that corridor between San Antonio, Houston, as well as Corpus Christi.”

—Zahra Hirji

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A close-up look at the eye of Harvey as the storm approaches the Texas coast

A close-up look at the eye of Hurricane #Harvey as it approaches the Texas coast - @DanLindsey77

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Trump's message to Texans: "Good luck to everybody"

Reporter: "Do you have a message for the people of Texas?" Trump: "Good luck to everybody." #HurricanHarvey

As he headed off to Camp David for the weekend, an OANN reporter asked Trump, "Do you have a message for the people of Texas?"

"Good luck to everybody," Trump replied, while giving a thumbs up.

— Tasneem Nashrulla

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Harvey strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane on Friday afternoon with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. Now a major storm, Harvey is about 85 miles off Texas coast.

Officials expect the storm will make landfall tonight or Saturday morning. Corpus Christi and other parts of the coast are already experiencing 1-2 feet of storm surge.

—Zahra Hirji

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Trump plans to visit Texas next week, White House says

The president plans to visit Texas next week to survey the damage from Hurricane Harvey, press secretary Sarah H. Sanders said in Friday's briefing.

In a separate statement, the White House said Trump "continues to closely monitor" the hurricane and response efforts of local, state, and federal officials.

"This storm will likely be very destructive for several days," the White House said, adding that Trump encourages residents in the path of the storm to heed orders from local and state officials.

"The President’s highest priority is the safety of the public and of first responders," it said. "Those who ignore evacuation orders could be putting both themselves and first responders in danger."

— Tasneem Nashrulla

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expressed dire warnings about the "complex and dangerous" hurricane and its aftermath in a press conference Friday.

"This hurricane is going to prove more dangerous than many other hurricanes," Abbott said, adding that multiple regions across Texas will be dealing with "high winds and immense record-setting flooding."

Abbott said that he has requested a presidential disaster declaration to obtain additional help from the federal government.

"We can tell this is going to be a very major disaster," he said.

The governor strongly urged Texans to evacuate areas that have been declared evacuation zones or situated in low-lying areas between Corpus Christi and Houston.

Abbott also warned residents to be vigilant about tornadoes, which are expected to spawned by the hurricane in the coming days.

Abbott said that the hurricane will make landfall and "hover for a long period of time" over the state, warning that residents will be dealing with rain and flooding for "a week or two."

—Tasneem Nashrulla

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Officials from Corpus Christi, one of the largest Texas cities bracing for Hurricane Harvey, just warned its residents to expect power outages from the storm lasting between three to seven days.

"Please be patient," Loyd Neal, a county judge and former mayor of Corpus Christi, said about the expected power outages at a press conference on Friday afternoon. "Plan for it to be off 48 hours or longer."

Neal urged residents to take the storm seriously. Referencing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said, “We don’t like to have the kind of results we saw when the storm hit New Orleans.”

City officials have encouraged residents, especially those in low-lying areas, to evacuate. It’s unknown how many people have left so far. Flights coming in and out of Corpus City International Airport on Friday have been canceled. Some airlines also canceled flights through the weekend.

Both Texas senators pledged support to help Corpus Christi, and the surrounding region, with federal support once the storm rolls in. According to city officials, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has hundreds of troops on standby to come in and help respond when needed.

—Zahra Hirji

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Immigrant advocates worried Friday that the Border Patrol's decision to keep its immigration checkpoints open in southeast Texas would discourage undocumented immigrants from fleeing Hurricane Harvey for fear of deportation.

Motorists are asked if they are US citizens at the checkpoints. BuzzFeed News previously has reported that the checkpoints make undocumented immigrants feel trapped because they can’t cross them without risking being stopped, arrested, and deported. Some immigrants avoid crucial medical care because of the checkpoints.

“By keeping checkpoints open, the Border Patrol is putting undocumented people and mixed-status families at risk out of fear of deportation," Lorella Praeli, the ACLU's director of immigration policy and campaigns, said in a statement. “This is a disgusting move from the Border Patrol that breaks with past practices. The Border Patrol should never keep checkpoints open during any natural disasters in the United States. Everyone, no matter the color of their skin or background, is worth saving.”

In a separate statement to the Texas Tribune, which first reported on the issue, the agency said it would keep the checkpoints open "unless there is a danger to the safety of the traveling public and our agents."

Read the full story here.

—Adolfo Flores

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President Trump is closely monitoring Harvey as the storm approaches Texas

Received a #HurricaneHarvey briefing this morning from Acting @DHSgov Secretary Elaine Duke, @FEMA_Brock,… https://t.co/VGdeIdgLbO

The president also said that he has spoken with both Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

I have spoken w/ @GovAbbott of Texas and @LouisianaGov Edwards. Closely monitoring #HurricaneHarvey developments & here to assist as needed.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/901108572041433089

—Jessica Simeone

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Hurricane Harvey is about to be the strongest to slam into the US in more than a decade