Boston/San Francisco: Hurricane Harvey became the strongest storm to hit Texas in more than 50 years, making landfall in the heart of the US energy sector with winds as strong as 130 miles (210 kilometers) per hour.

The Category 4 storm came ashore between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas, packing gusts strong enough to strip the roof off of houses and menacing Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city, the US National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 10pm local time. Along with powerful winds, the storm is forecast to dump as much as 40 inches (101 centimeters) of rain on the region and cause substantial flooding, raising the potential of lengthy power outages, damaged refineries and blocked shipments of oil and agricultural products.

“Storm surges and 100-mile per hour plus winds will result in widespread coastal devastation near and northeast of landfall," said Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company in Andover, Massachusetts. “Amongst all the impacts from wind damage and storm surge, the freshwater inland flooding may end up being the biggest story all."

Category 4 winds will tear walls and roofs off well-built frame houses, snap or uproot most trees and tear down power lines and poles causing outages that can last for weeks and sometimes months, according to the National Hurricane Center. Many people may find themselves isolated due to debris and flooding.

A sign above Interstate 10 in Beaumont, Texas, warns travellers to stay away from the coast as Hurricane Harvey bears down on the state on Friday. Photo: Ryan Pelham/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP
A sign above Interstate 10 in Beaumont, Texas, warns travellers to stay away from the coast as Hurricane Harvey bears down on the state on Friday. Photo: Ryan Pelham/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP

The storm is striking a region that has a cluster of refineries that process 5 million barrels of oil a day. By Friday, About 1 million barrels a day of crude and condensate refining capacity in Texas has been shut down by companies including Valero Energy Corp., according to company statements, government releases and people familiar with the situation. About 22% of Gulf of Mexico oil production has also been shuttered, along with the port of Corpus Christi, which ships the largest amount of US crude overseas.

Katrina, the most costly hurricane in US history, came ashore as a Category 3 storm in 2005-

Category 4

In addition to its economic impacts, Harvey forced the evacuation of thousands of residents along the Texas coast and caused Governor Greg Abbott to declare an emergency. It is the first Category 4 storm to hit Texas since 1961 and the first to hit the US since 2004. Katrina, the most costly hurricane in US history, came ashore as a Category 3 storm in 2005.

Strong winds batter seaside houses before the approaching Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas on 25 August 2017. Photo: AFP
Strong winds batter seaside houses before the approaching Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas on 25 August 2017. Photo: AFP

Harvey formed more than week ago east of Barbados then meandered through the Caribbean Sea before falling apart last weekend. The storm reformed in the Gulf of Mexico after crossing the Yucatan Peninsula this week.

It is forecast to push inland northwest of Corpus Christi and then stall, soaking the region in rains likely to result in widespread flooding. It’s likely to meander between Corpus Christi and San Antonio through Sunday before drifting east toward the Gulf of Mexico.

If the storm does significant damage to the refineries in the region, or causes the Colonial pipeline to go offline, the effects could ripple to other parts of the country that rely heavily on the Gulf Coast for fuel supplies. Gasoline futures settled at a 3-week high Friday as the storm approached.

Hurricane Harvey is pictured off the coast of Texas, US from aboard the International Space Station in this 25 August 2017 image. Photo: Reuters/Nasa handout
Hurricane Harvey is pictured off the coast of Texas, US from aboard the International Space Station in this 25 August 2017 image. Photo: Reuters/Nasa handout

Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm when it struck near the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel in 2008, killed 103 people across the Caribbean and the US, including at least 21 in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. It caused about $29.5 billion in damage, according to a 2009 National Hurricane Center report. Property analytics firm CoreLogic estimated Thursday that 232,721 homes along the Texas coast with a reconstruction cost value of about $39.6 billion were at risk of storm surge damage.

So far, Hurricane Harvey has resulted in:

Shutdowns at the ports of Corpus Christi, Houston and Galveston BNSF halting train traffic in the Galveston area More than 104,000 customers in Texas to lose power Grain elevators to stop shipments of more than 300,000 bushels of sorghum Stopped drilling in the Eagle Ford shale formation. Bloomberg

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