(CN) – Hurricane Harvey appeared to be taking dead aim at Corpus Christi Friday morning, where officials encouraged residents to evacuate, as the storm intensifies. Weather forecasters worry that the storm may stall when it hits land, and could dump as much as 35 inches of rain in places, which would be disastrous.
While the evacuation of Corpus Christi was voluntary Thursday, authorities in Port Aransas, Rockport and Calhoun County have ordered mandatory evacuations.
Harvey, now a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of more than 80 mph, is intensifying rapidly and is forecast to be a major hurricane with winds of 125 mph – making it nearly a Category 4 storm – by the time it hits the Texas coast Friday night or early Saturday.
The hurricane could bring catastrophic storm surge flooding and life-threatening rainfall and wind hazards to parts of the Texas coast, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday.
Harvey would be the first hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Hurricane Ike, a disastrous Category 2 storm that came ashore in Galveston in 2008. More than 140,000 Texas residents refused to evacuate ahead of Ike, and more than 2,000 people had to be rescued.
The National Hurricane Center is advising residents along the middle Texas coastline to rush their hurricane preparations Thursday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday declared a state of disaster for 30 Texas counties.
Some Houston-area school districts have already canceled activities and classes scheduled for Friday and Monday in anticipation of the storm.
Houston resident Mark Burciaga said Thursday he was disappointed he had to cancel a weekend trip to visit his brother in Corpus Christi.
He said his brother had to find high ground because he lives in an apartment complex prone to flooding. He downplayed the predictions for catastrophic flooding in Houston. “It’s just rain,” he said.
He said he’d bought two-and-a-half cases of Bud Light to ride out the storm. “That might last me through the weekend,” he joked.
The Texas Department of Transportation, which publishes hurricane evacuation guides with highlighted routes, has not yet made any Texas highways one-way routes, which has been done during major hurricanes in the past.
TxDOT officials are encouraging residents to fill up gas tanks now, in case they must evacuate.
Flooding could reach heights of 6 to 10 feet above ground level at the coast between the north entrance of the Padre Island National Seashore and the community of Sargent, and life-threatening flooding is expected along much of the Texas coast, with isolated amounts of rainfall as high as 30 inches in some places, according to the Hurricane Center.
The storm poses a major flooding threat for much of Louisiana as well.
Cameron Langford contributed to this report.