Storm Hanna batters COVID-hit Texas coast, threatening heavy rains

by Reuters
Sunday, 26 July 2020 23:24 GMT

Traffic is halted as tow trucks surround an overturned HEB supermarket truck along US Route 77 in the aftermath of high wind gusts from Hurricane Hanna in Sarita, Texas, U.S., July 26, 2020. No fatalities were reported. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

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Texas governor says the storm was especially challenging as it swept through an area that has been worst hit by coronavirus

By Adrees Latif

PORT MANSFIELD, Texas, July 26 (Reuters) - Hurricane Hanna left a trail of destruction on the Texas coast on Sunday, overturning tractor-trailers, downing power lines and toppling part of the U.S.-Mexico border wall as the storm threatened the area with torrential rains.

Eventually weakening to a tropical depression, Hanna came ashore on Padre Island on Saturday afternoon as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity and later made a second landfall in Kenedy County, Texas. It swept through a part of the state hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hanna was the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. In the Pacific, Hurricane Douglas was churning near Hawaii on Sunday.

Powerful winds from Hanna knocked over at least three 18-wheeler trucks and a recreational vehicle, with tow trucks trying to right the toppled vehicles on Sunday, shutting down a 2-mile (3.2-km) stretch of U.S. Route 77 in Sarita, Texas, near the Mexican border.

In Port Mansfield, winds flattened sugarcane fields and leveled trees. Deer roamed streets, stopping to nibble downed branches in the yards of homes, some that lost their roofs.

A video circulating on Twitter showed winds toppling a newly constructed portion of the border wall built between the United States and Mexico.

At one point, more than 283,000 homes and businesses were without electricity. But that figure fell to 203,000 by Sunday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.

The storm was not expected to affect offshore oil and gas production. Energy companies have not evacuated workers or shut down production from their Gulf of Mexico platforms because of Hanna.

Some residents took advantage of the wild weather, with Alejandero Carcano, 16, and Jesse Garewal, 18, both of Galveston, surfing the high swells whipped up by Hanna.

Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement on Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared the storm a federal emergency and would help fund evacuation and shelter efforts.

"I continue to urge Texans to heed the guidance from their local leaders and follow best practices to keep themselves and their loved ones safe as severe weather continues to move through our communities," he said.

The Texas area struck by Hanna has struggled to contain outbreaks of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Cases along the state's coast have soared into the tens of thousands.

More than 440 people in the Corpus Christi area were hospitalized with the illness, according to the state health department.

STILL A THREAT

Weakening as it headed west over land, Hanna's center on Sunday was about 35 miles (55 km) from Monterrey, Mexico, as it moved 9 miles per hour (15 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin posted at 4 p.m. (2100 GMT).

The storm's top sustained winds were around 35 mph (56 kph), the center said.

The storm was forecast to lose more steam as it moved across Texas and northeastern Mexico. On Sunday, weather watch officials canceled the storm surge warning they had issued for the Texas coast.

Hanna still posed a threat, forecasters said, noting it could dump upward of 18 inches (45 cm) of rain in isolated areas of southern Texas through Monday.

"This rain will produce life-threatening flash flooding, rapid rises on small streams, and isolated minor to moderate river flooding," the NHC said. (Reporting by Adrees Latif; Additional reporting by Raissa Kasolowsky, Barbara Goldberg and Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)

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