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Sunday, 20 September 2020

Tropical Storm Hanna flattens COVID-hit Texas coast

Reuters , Sunday 26 Jul 2020
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Hurricane Hanna's trail of devastation on the south Texas coast on Sunday was marked by overturned tractor-trailer trucks, downed powerlines and roofless houses still threatened by flash flooding in an area already badly hit by COVID-19 infections.

Eventually downgraded to a tropical storm, Hanna came ashore on Padre Island on Saturday afternoon as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale and later made a second landfall in Kenedy County, Texas.

Powerful winds smacked down 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 stretch of U.S. Route 77 in Sarita, Texas, near the Mexican border.

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

At one point more than 283,000 homes and businesses were without electricity but the figure fell to 230,000 by Sunday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us. But some locals took advantage of the wild weather, with Alejandero Carcano, 16, and Jesse Garewal, 18, both residents of Galveston, surfing the high swells whipped up by Hanna.

Weakening as it headed west over land, Hanna's center on Sunday was about 40 miles (65 km) from McAllen, Texas and about 65 miles (105 km) from Monterrey, Mexico, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

At 4 a.m. CDT (0900 GMT), the storm's top sustained winds were around 60 miles per hour (95 km per hour), the center said. The White House approved an emergency disaster declaration for Texas.

It was forecast to lose more steam as it moved across Texas and northeastern Mexico, and 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.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Saturday that the storm was especially challenging as it was sweeping through an area of the state that has been the worst hit by the coronavirus.

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.

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.

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