Residents cleared grocery store shelves and airports braced for the possibility of delays. The school district has canceled events on Friday as well as classes on Monday.
Houston is within the zone that is expected to receive 15 to 25 inches of rain, and the forecast has revived memories of past storms. In 2001, for instance, a tropical storm named Allison inundated southeast Texas and was blamed for 22 deaths in the area.
The storm was far from the first major flooding episode: The Harris County Flood Control District notes that the area “flooded from the beginning” — Houston was founded in 1836 — and that the county usually experiences some major flooding every two years or so.
Government officials spent some of their time this week batting down rumors and speculation. Mayor Sylvester Turner complained that “false forecasts and irresponsible rumors on social media” were interfering with efforts to distribute accurate information.
“Rumors are nothing new,” Mr. Turner said, “but the widespread use of social media has needlessly frightened many people today.” — ALAN BLINDER in Houston
Travelers have been grounded.
Dozens of flights had already been canceled on Friday morning as airports along the Texas coast warned that Harvey could disrupt travel for days to come. In Houston, many flights were still operating on time, but 37 flights had been canceled at George Bush Intercontinental Airport by 8 a.m. local time.
At Corpus Christi International Airport, all flights after 7 a.m. were canceled. South of there, at Valley International Airport in Harlingen, morning flights were operating as scheduled, but most afternoon trips were canceled. And at the airport in McAllen, there was a mix of cancellations and on-schedule flights.
Farther inland, FlightView reported few significant delays, with flights in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio mostly operating as scheduled on Friday morning. But even in some of those cities, officials were warning of potential disruptions to come.
San Antonio International Airport had posted warnings about Harvey on its Twitter page, including a retweeted view of the hurricane bearing down on the state. — MITCH SMITH
Leave town, coastal counties urge.
Seven coastal counties from Corpus Christi to the western end of Galveston ordered mandatory evacuations of at least some areas. Mayor Joe McComb of Corpus Christi encouraged residents to leave voluntarily.
Watch the storm intensify.
Anthony Farnell, the chief meteorologist for Global News in Canada, tweeted a video Thursday of the intensifying storm.
The turmoil could easily last into next week.
“It is critical that users not focus on the exact forecast track of Harvey since cycle-to-cycle adjustment are likely,” the National Hurricane Center said in one of its updates on Thursday. “All locations within the hurricane and storm surge warning areas should be preparing for the possibility of major hurricane-force winds and life-threatening storm surge.”
With the ultimate path of the storm uncertain, the governors of Louisiana and Texas have declared emergencies. In addition to the evacuation orders from some counties, school districts have canceled classes, and residents have been rushing to prepare their homes and businesses. — ALAN BLINDER in Houston
The new head of FEMA faces his first big test.
With the storm, the Trump administration faces its first test in dealing with a major natural disaster. The storm will also be the first major challenge for the Federal Emergency Management Agency under Brock Long, who was confirmed as director in June by the Senate.
Mr. Long was the director of Alabama’s disaster relief agency when Hurricane Katrina hit the state in 2005, and his selection has inspired confidence among lawmakers and state disaster relief officials.
Lanita Lloyd, the president of the International Association of Emergency Managers, a trade group, told The Times last month that Mr. Long was battle-tested.
“He’s someone we know and trust and will have the agency prepared for whatever disaster might hit.” Read more » — RON NIXON in Washington
Researchers cite a risk of environmental disaster in Texas.
The petrochemical industry from Galveston to Houston is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, according to scientists who have used models to predict a worst-case scenario for the Gulf Coast. Roy Scranton, an assistant professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, described their efforts in a Times opinion essay last year.
Among the predictions from one modeled scenario: “More than 200 petrochemical storage tanks have been wrecked, more than 100 million gallons of petroleum and chemicals spilled. Damages for the region are estimated at more than $100 billion. More than 3,500 are dead.” Read more »
The president shared some disaster preparation tips.
President Trump tweeted a short video of himself visiting FEMA. The tweet included links to help residents prepare for the worst.