Hurricane Hanna downgraded to tropical storm as it lands in virus-hit Texas
The first Atlantic hurricane of 2020 was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday after it swept into coronavirus-hit Texas, bringing heavy rain, storm surges and potentially life-threatening flash flooding.
The Category 1 storm was downgraded by the US National Hurricane Center to a tropical storm at around 6GMT but it was still packing winds of around 115 kilometers per hour.
“Hanna is expected to produce heavy rains across portions of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. These rains will result in life-threatening flash flooding,” and some river flooding, meteorologists said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or widespread damage.
But meteorologists warned a “life-threatening storm surge” could reach 1.8 meters in some areas, while the storm was forecast to drop up to 45 centimeters of rain through Monday on south Texas and Mexico.
Damage appeared limited in the immediate aftermath of Hanna’s landfall on Padre Island at around 5pm, with some isolated flooding and power outages.
Images captured by CBS showed roads and a caravan park in the coastal city of Corpus Christi strewn with debris and downed trees.
Local authorities were readying for the possibility of tornadoes springing up overnight in some coastal areas, according to local news reports, as the American Red Cross opened three shelters across the state in preparation.
Images shared by the National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi showed water lapping at the city’s bayfront Art Museum of South Texas.
Texas State Aquarium said it would be closed following some storm damage.
Hanna hit as Texas faces a huge surge in COVID-19 infections, with officials instituting a state-wide mask mandate to curb the spread of the disease.
Hanna was about 110 kilometers south of Corpus Christi when it made landfall, with the city of 325,000 a virus hot spot.
The US is the hardest-hit country in the coronavirus pandemic, with some 4.2 million cases, and authorities will have to figure out how to safely shelter residents forced out of their homes by future hurricanes this season.
Two other storm systems were churning on Saturday: Pacific Hurricane Douglas, bearing down on the Hawaiian islands, and Tropical Storm Gonzalo in the Atlantic, near the Windward Islands.