Storm Hanna lashes Texas; Hawaii readies for hurricane

A satellite image showing Hurricane Douglas moving towards the west-north-west of Hawaii. If Douglas reaches the islands, it would be only the third hurricane in modern times to do so. The storm was expected to pass near the islands of Oahu and Kauai
A satellite image showing Hurricane Douglas moving towards the west-north-west of Hawaii. If Douglas reaches the islands, it would be only the third hurricane in modern times to do so. The storm was expected to pass near the islands of Oahu and Kauai on Sunday night.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PORT MANSFIELD (Texas) • Hanna, the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season, has left a trail of destruction along the Texas coast, downing power lines, flooding streets and toppling 18-wheeler trucks as torrential rain threatened the area.

Hanna came ashore on Padre Island last 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 US state hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. By Sunday, it had weakened to a tropical depression.

Powerful winds from Hanna knocked over heavy vehicles including at least three 18-wheeler trucks, shutting down a 3km stretch of US Route 77 in Sarita, Texas, near the Mexican border.

In Port Mansfield, 240km south of Padre Island, winds flattened sugarcane fields and levelled trees. Deer roamed the streets, stopping to nibble downed branches in the yards of homes.

Downpours which brought over 30cm of rain flooded roadways and swelled streams and rivers across south Texas, the National Weather Service said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

"You could hear the wind blowing and the rain blowing, and (if) you looked outside, you could see sheets of water blowing down the street," said Ms Sharon Pecce, 75, a resident of Port Mansfield, whose house had its roof ripped off last Saturday night.

"It's scary to go through this at my age, a lot could have happened... We could have been killed," added Ms Pecce who was at a friend's home with her 70-year-old husband when the damage occurred. "We are lucky we weren't there."

At one point, more than 283,000 homes and businesses were without electricity. But that figure fell to 98,000 by Sunday night, 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.

Governor Greg Abbott said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had declared the storm a federal emergency and would help fund evacuation and shelter efforts.

The storm was forecast to lose steam as it moved across Texas and north-eastern Mexico.

Separately, Hawaiians were bracing themselves for the arrival of Hurricane Douglas, which was threatening to bring sustained winds of near 135kmh and torrential rainfall in some areas.

If Douglas, which was downgraded to a Category 1, reaches the islands, it would be only the third hurricane in modern times to do so. The storm was about 100km north-east of Honolulu on Sunday night, and was expected to pass near the islands of Oahu and Kauai later in the night.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for the counties that include the islands of Kauai, Niihau and Oahu, the National Hurricane Centre said in an advisory on Sunday.

It is rare for hurricanes to hit Hawaii because of the islands' size compared with the expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Other conditions in Hawaii, including lower water temperatures and wind shear, also weaken hurricanes.

Only two storms since modern record-keeping started in 1900 are known to have struck the islands: In 1992, Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai as a Category 4 storm, killing six people and causing about US$3 billion in damage. In 1959, Hurricane Dot struck, causing about US$5.5 million in damage.

While Douglas has weakened, the storm was still expected to remain a hurricane as it moved through the islands. The combination of high water levels, storm surge and large breaking waves could raise water levels by close to 1m above normal tides near the storm's centre, the hurricane centre warned.

There can still be hurricane-force winds in an area with a tropical storm warning because of the islands' steep terrain, including mountains, the centre said.

Forecasters predicted 75mm to 150mm of rain on the main Hawaiian islands, possibly contributing to flash floods and landslides.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2020, with the headline 'Storm Hanna lashes Texas; Hawaii readies for hurricane'. Print Edition | Subscribe