Update 2: Hurricane Harvey is now a Category 4 hurricane as of 1930 hours CDT, with peak sustained wind speeds of 251 kph (156 mph).
Update: As of 1400 hours CDT, Hurricane Harvey is now a Category 3 hurricane with 193 kph (120 mph) winds.
Hurricane Harvey will make landfall in Texas later this Friday or early Saturday morning, and it’s set to be the most destructive in the last eleven years. Like all hurricanes, this one threatens both powerful winds, a storm surge, and intense rainfall – but Harvey is set to stand out from the crowd in the worst possible way.
Currently barreling towards the Lone Star State through the Gulf of Mexico, this beast is registering as a Category 2 (out of 5) hurricane right now, but it’s expected to build strength and become a Category 3 by the time it makes landfall, between Port O’Connor and Matagorda Bay.
To put this in perspective, the highly-damaging Hurricane Sandy that hit the eastern seaboard back in 2012 – and caused $75 billion in damages – was just a Category 1 when it made landfall in the US. This makes Harvey the first “major” hurricane to hit America since Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. For awhile, it looked as if it was going to be merely a tropical storm, but as it tracked across the gulf, it suddenly regenerated into something far more ominous.
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, and over 30 Texas counties have been issued with disaster proclamations. Texan Governor Greg Abbot, in a statement, has announced that he is calling up 700 members of the National Guard, and that helicopters are being called in to fly people out of the most at-risk zones.
“I… do hereby certify that Tropical Depression Harvey poses a threat of imminent disaster,” he said.
Let’s take a look at the threats posed by Hurricane Harvey. First, its sustained peak wind strength is expected to be in the range of 178–208 kilometers per hour (111–129 miles per hour) when it makes landfall. Although these will clearly threaten the general public, particularly from flying debris, it’s a common misconception that the wind is the most dangerous component to a hurricane.
As we explain here, for the average hurricane, 400 times more energy goes into the cloud and rain formation than goes into producing those monstrous winds. By far, the precipitation and flooding are far more threatening.