Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Thursday as Hurricane Harvey is setting its sights on the area around Corpus Christi, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The beach communities of Rockport, Port Aransas, and Aransas Pass issued mandatory evacuation orders, effective at noon Thursday. Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan said a 'widespread and imminent threat of injury and loss of life' from the hurricane prompted the order, and warned that people who ignore the order will face 'criminal penalties.'
The City of Corpus Christi is issuing an advisory evacuation declaration. "Residents, Winter Texans, Tourists and Visitors along Highway 361 on Padre Island from Port Aransas to Corpus Christi are advised that 5 to 7 foot storm surge and local rains from 20 to 25 inches related to Tropical Storm Harvey," Mayor Joe McComb said in a statement.
The last time a hurricane hit Corpus Christi was Celia in 1970, and McComb says he is concerned about the people who have moved into the area since then who have no idea about a hurricane's power. "I hope people will listen to forecasters when they say 'beware of flash floods,' they pay attention," he said. "Flash floods can come quickly, and they can be deadly."
The City of Corpus Christi began distributing sand bags to residents today, in expectation of a massive storm surge hitting the low lying community.
Tammy Smith, who runs a small grocery store on Corpus Christi Beach, says water is emergency supplies are at a premium. "Corpus Christi is out of water. We are getting 22 pallets in today," she said. "We had a line at the door when we opened today. I think everybody wants to get in and shop so they can get out of here."
Port Aransas resident Mike Wagner, who lives along the coast where he teaches surfing, is boarding up his windows today and preparing to get out. "It's going to be bad," he says of Harvey. "We're going to have a huge storm surge, and lots of wind."
Elsewhere in south Texas, Mark Cross of the Texas Department of Transportation is ready to clear the roads of debris left behind by the storm. "We will be prepared for traffic control and clean up, once the weather event has passed," he said.
Located not far from where Harvey is expected to make landfall is the South Texas Nuclear Project nuclear power plant.
Spokesman Buddy Eiler says the facility was 'designed to sustain a storm,' and there are plans in place to shut down operations if necessary. "From a regulatory standpoint, if he have sustained wind speeds of more than 74 miles per hour, we will shut but units down," he said.
At the Port of Corpus Christi, which is becoming one of the largest oil shipping ports in the country, spokeswoman Rose Collins says workers have regular hurricane drills, and the port is built to withstand a major hurricane. "Tying things down, going to all the docks, and insuring all of the safety mechanisms are in place."
This will be the first hurricane to hit the Texas coast since Ike devastated Galveston nine years ago. Libby Castillo of the Red Cross in San Antonio Red Cross says the newcomers need to understand the severity of the storm. "
Kind of familiarize yourself with what may be coming," she said. "Just kind of learn what to prepare for, even though they've never experienced it."