Tropical Storm Hanna flattens COVID-hit Texas coast

Tropical Storm Hanna flattens COVID-hit Texas coast

Tow trucks surround overturned truck in aftermath of Hurricane Hanna in Sarita, Texas
Traffic is halted as tow trucks surround an overturned HEB supermarket truck along US Route 77 in the aftermath of high wind gusts from Hurricane Hanna in Sarita, Texas, on Jul 26, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

PORT MANSFIELD, Texas: Hurricane Hanna left a trail of destruction on the Texas coast on Sunday (Jul 26), overturning tractor-trailers, downing power lines and toppling part of the US-Mexico border wall as the storm threatened the area with torrential rains.

Eventually weakening to a tropical depression, Hanna came ashore on Padre Island on 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 state hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hanna was the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. In the Pacific, Hurricane Douglas was churning near Hawaii on Sunday.

Powerful winds from Hanna knocked over 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 (3.2km) stretch of US Route 77 in Sarita, Texas, near the Mexican border.

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

Residents survey their destroyed camper trailer
Residents survey their destroyed camper trailer in the aftermath of Hurricane Hanna in Port Mansfield, Texas, on Jul 26, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

A video circulating on Twitter showed winds toppling a newly constructed portion of the border wall built between the United States and Mexico.

At one point, more than 283,000 homes and businesses were without electricity. But that figure fell to 203,000 by Sunday afternoon, 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.

Some residents took advantage of the wild weather, with Alejandero Carcano, 16, and Jesse Garewal, 18, both of Galveston, surfing the high swells whipped up by Hanna.

Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement on Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared the storm a federal emergency and would help fund evacuation and shelter efforts.

"I continue to urge Texans to heed the guidance from their local leaders and follow best practices to keep themselves and their loved ones safe as severe weather continues to move through our communities," he said.

A family watches high swells from Hurricane Hanna from a jetty in Galveston, Texas
A girl covers her face from strong winds as her family members watch high swells from Hurricane Hanna from a jetty in Galveston, Texas, Jul 25, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

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.

STILL A THREAT

Weakening as it headed west over land, Hanna's centre on Sunday was about 35 miles (55km) from Monterrey, Mexico, as it moved 9 miles per hour (15 kph), the US National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin posted at 4pm (2100 GMT).

The storm's top sustained winds were around 35mph (56kph), the center said.

The storm was forecast to lose more steam as it moved across Texas and northeastern Mexico. On Sunday, weather watch officials cancelled 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.

Source: Reuters/ec

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