Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t care about coronavirus and doesn’t discriminate between states that have been decimated by the pandemic and those that have fared better. Hurricane Hanna, the first of the Atlantic season, is headed to Texas — which has reported more than 369,000 cases of covid-19 and an average of more than 8,900 cases per day this week — and is expected to make landfall in the southern part of the state later on today.
The U.S. National Hurricane Centre on Saturday said that hurricane conditions are expected along the Texas coast from Port Mansfield to Mesquite Bay. A hurricane warning has been issued for the area, and tropical storm conditions were expected to reach the coast Sunday morning. As of 11 a.m. ET, Hanna was about 129 km from Texas moving west at 11.2 km/h with max sustained winds of 129 km/h.
The centre of Hanna, a Category 1 hurricane, is expected to make landfall within the hurricane warning area by late afternoon or early evening, according to the NHC.
Officials anticipate the hurricane will produce heavy rains across parts of south Texas and northeastern Mexico. In terms of rainfall, the NHC said that Hanna is expected to produce between 6 to 12 inches of rain with isolated maximum totals of 18 inches through Sunday night in south Texas and the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo León and northern Tamaulipas.
The NHC warns that these rains could result in “life-threatening flash flooding and isolated minor to moderate river flooding.”
South Texas will not be the only area affected, however. Roughly 3 to 5 inches of rain is expected along the upper Texas and Louisiana coasts as well.
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide in south Texas is also cause for concern, as it will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline, per the NHC.
The agency added that, if the peak surge occurs during high tide, water could reach heights of between 3 to 5 feet in the area of Baffin Bay to Mesquite Bay, including Corpus Christi Bay, Copano Bay and Aransas Bay; 2 to 4 feet in Port Mansfield to Baffin Bay; 2 to 4 feet in Mesquite Bay to Sargent, including San Antonio Bay and Matagorda Bay; 1 to 3 feet in the mouth of the Rio Grande to Port Mansfield; and 1 to 2 feet north of Sargent to High Island, including Galveston Bay.
The NHC also said that a few tornados were possible today and overnight as a result of Hanna over parts of the lower to middle Texas coastal plain.
An NHC update issued at 3 p.m. ET reported that the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Aircraft and Doppler radars had found that Hanna had strengthened. The update highlighted that the Texas Coastal Ocean Observation Network observing station at Laguna Madre, Texas reported a sustained wind of 101 km/h and a gust of 127 km/h.
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According to the New York Times, Hanna is set to hit several counties that have seen a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. In Nueces County, which includes Corpus Christi, for instance, cases have risen from about 2,300 at the beginning of July to 9,900 on Friday. The Times reports that the increase in cases has been fuelled in part by out of town visitors who ran to Corpus Christi, a beach city, because of its low coronavirus case count.
Hanna isn’t the only hurricane that weather experts are keeping an eye on this weekend. They’re also watching Hurricane Douglas, which is moving towards Hawaii. In its latest advisory, the NHC said that Douglas could potentially pass dangerously close to, or over, the main Hawaiian Islands late Saturday night through Sunday night.
The NHC stated that the close passage of Douglas brings a “triple threat” of hazards, including damaging winds, flooding rainfall and dangerously high surf. It urged the public not to focus on the exact forecast track or intensity of Douglas and to remain prepared for changes in the forecast.
“Due to Douglas’ angle of approach to the islands, any small changes in the track could lead to significant differences in where the worst weather occurs,” the NHC said. “Even if the centre remains offshore, severe impacts could still be realised over the islands, as they extend well away from the centre.”