Hurricane Hanna rumbled toward the Texas Gulf Coast on Saturday, lashing the shoreline with wind gusts and rain and threatening to bring storm surge and possible tornadoes to a part of the country trying to cope with a spike in coronavirus cases.
The storm, which is the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, was expected to make landfall Saturday afternoon or early evening south of Corpus Christi, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. As of late Saturday morning, it had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (129 kph) and was centered about 85 miles (137 kilometers) southeast of Corpus Christi and was moving west at 7 mph (11 kph).
Many parts of Texas, including the area where Hanna was expected to come ashore, have been dealing with a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, but local officials said they were prepared for whatever the storm may bring.
“And don’t feel like since we’ve been fighting COVID for five months, that we’re out of energy or we’re out of gas. We’re not,” Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb said Friday. “We can do these two things together and we’re going to win both of them.”
Corpus Christi is in Nueces County, where health officials made headlines when they claimed that 60 infants tested positive for COVID-19 from July 1 to July 16.
Farther south in Cameron County, which borders Mexico, more than 300 confirmed new cases have been reported almost daily for the past two weeks, according to state health figures. The past week has also been the county’s deadliest of the pandemic.
Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, the county’s top elected official, said he was awaiting word Friday of whether hotels would be used to house recovering COVID-19 patients in order to free up hospital beds.
“If there’s any benefit to be gained from this, it’s that people have to stay at home for a weekend,” Treviño said.
Officials reminded residents to wear masks if they needed to get supplies before the storm arrives or if they have to shelter with neighbors because of flooding.
The main hazard from Hanna was expected to be flash flooding, Chris Birchfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville, said Friday. Forecasters said Hanna could bring 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of rain through Sunday night — with isolated totals of 18 inches (46 centimeters) — in addition to coastal swells that could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.