Tropical Storm Hanna was on Saturday upgraded to become the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, with Houston and adjoining Texas cities witnessing scattered thunderstorms, with increasing rainfall and wind gusts, according to the National Hurricane Centre.
With a max sustained wind speed of 75 mph and gusts up to 85 mph, the National Weather Service has issued a warning of life-threatening storm-surge for several areas, including Port Lavaca and Rock Port.
“Houston and adjoining Texas cities are already seeing scattered thunderstorms as a result of Hanna, which is headed to south Texas- an area hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic; landfall as a category one hurricane,” authorities said.
Looking to assist, Governnor Greg Abbott dispatched emergency resources to the Coastal Bend region and to the Rio Grande Valley, where the governor is simultaneously sending more than 1,000 medical personnel to help fight the novel coronavirus, which has devastated South Texas.
Many parts of Texas have been dealing with a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, but local officials said they were prepared for whatever the storm may bring.
At least 2 per cent of the population was infected, or one in every 50 people.
Farther south in Cameron County, which borders Mexico, more than 300 confirmed new cases have been reported almost daily for the past two weeks, according to state health figures.
The past week has also been the county's deadliest of the pandemic.
Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, the county's top elected official, said he was awaiting word Friday of whether hotels would be used to house recovering COVID-19 patients in order to free up hospital beds, according to media reports.
“If there's any benefit to be gained from this, it's that people have to stay at home for a weekend,” Treviño said.
Officials reminded residents to wear masks if they needed to get supplies before the storm arrives or if they have to shelter with neighbors because of flooding.
The main hazard from Hanna was expected to be flash flooding, Chris Birchfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville, said Friday.
Forecasters said Hanna could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain through Sunday night — with isolated totals of 18 inches (46 centimeters) — in addition to coastal swells that could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, media reports said.
Coastal states scrambled this spring to adjust emergency hurricane plans to account for the virus, and Hanna loomed as the first big test.