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Hurricane Harvey: How it could affect Austin

Quite a bit, as it turns out

Photo of a satellite pic of hurricane
Hurricane Harvey
NASA

This story was originally published on Thursday, Aug. 24 and has been updated as noted below.

Update, 6:22 p.m., Friday, Aug. 25: Hurricane Harvey has been updated to a Category 4 storm with a winds speeds of 130 mph and gusts up to 150 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The last Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Texas was Hurricane Carla, which devastated the city of Houston in 1961.

The Governor’s Office has a Texas Hurricane Center website that lists the 37 Texas cities or counties that have had voluntary or mandatory evacuations, as well as a list of open shelters, links to other resources, and a number to call to learn about current road conditions.

Because of the upgraded hurricane category, KXAN reports, Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued for Hays, Bastrop, Caldwell, and Fayette counties. A Flash Flood Watch is also in effect for Travis, Williamson, Hays, Blanco, Bastrop, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays and Lee counties.

Flood Warnings have been issued for Bastrop, Caldwell, Fayette and Hays Counties.

You can read the National Weather Service’s “Local Statement” for the Austin-San Antonio area, which provides specific and detailed updates, here.

As most of us know, hurricanes are among the least predictable of weather phenomena. Nonetheless, we do know hurricanes that hit the Texas coast can have repercussive effects in Central Texas. This weekend’s storm, recently christened Hurricane Harvey, is no exception—and might have effects even more significant than most of the Gulf Coast hurricanes that have recently hit the state.

As of late Thursday night, things were still ... uncertain. What we do know, according to legendary local weatherman and masterful weaver of weather narratives Jim Spencer of KXAN-TV (who, believe us, is a Central Texas weather vet who calls local weather much more accurately than most satellites, radar systems, or national websites), Harvey should, first of all, be “taken seriously.”

More specifically, according to Spencer, Harvey could make landfall Friday night, around 7:00 p.m., as a Category 3 hurricane (we’ll go into how rare that is later, if it happens), somewhere between Corpus Christi, Texas, and Rockport, Texas.

While such a scenario could mean between one and 20 inches of rainfall in a single day in the Austin area (see “hurricanes are unpredictable,” above), a couple of things are in play.

The first is that people along the Texas coast are being evacuated to Austin and San Antonio. That means taking into account the resources (water, sleeping quarters, etc.) evacuees will need.

The second is that, as far as Central Texas is concerned, the biggest danger from hurricanes is secondary and takes the form of severe flooding. That, according to Spencer, could be the case with Hurricane Harvey, especially if it decides to stall out around Victoria, Texas, or nearby (one of the scenarios). Depending on the track Harvey takes as it moves inland, the Austin area could also experience extremely high winds.

Here are some sites where you can keep up with local weather conditions, as well as the annual events they affect, such as the University of Texas’ fall move-in dates.

Hurricane Harvey [KXAN]

National Weather Service Austin-San Antonio Twitter feed

Texas Hurricane Center [Office of the Texas Governor]

Hurricane Harvey [Weather Underground]

Moo0ve-in Before You Arrive [UT Austin]