CORPUS CHRISTI — Hurricane Harvey, taking dead aim on the Texas Gulf coast, strengthened to a Category 3 storm Friday only hours before it was set to roar ashore and unleash life-threatening high winds, flash flooding, storm surges and up to three feet of rain.
"This is going to be a very major disaster," said Gov. Gregg Abbott, who declared a State of Disaster for 30 counties and requested 700 National Guard members to be activated.
He warned of record-setting flooding in multiple regions of the state and urged people to get out of harm's way. “You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you could be subject to a search and rescue.”
Some forecasts are calling for as much as a mind-boggling 60 inches (that's five feet) of rain from Harvey.
As many as 1.25 million Texans could lose power from the storm, according to forecast models at Texas A&M University.
With some 700,000 people living in the hurricane warning zone — roughly half of them around Corpus Christi — traffic backups tied up heavily traveled roads such as Interstate 37 as people move toward San Antonio and other inland locations.
Fueled by the warm Gulf waters, Harvey jumped within hours from a Category 2 to Category 3 hurricane on Friday. As of 2 p.m. CDT, the center was located 75 miles south-southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas. The storm had winds of 120 mph and was moving to the northwest at 10 mph.
The National Weather service warned that Harvey could linger for days and even spin back offshore to regenerate in the Gulf before heading toward Louisiana.
"The flooding will be catastrophic and life-threatening," weather service director Louis Uccellini said in a statement. "The economic impact will likely be devastating."
Locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months, the weather service in Corpus Christi said.
It would be the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 12 years. A major hurricane is one that's a Category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.
The last Category 3 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma, which barreled into Florida in Oct. 2005.
President Trump weighed in on the storm, tweeting that he is "closely monitoring" and "here to assist as needed."