Tropical Storm Harold Touches Down on South Texas Coast in First 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season Landfall
In a significant development, Tropical Storm Harold made landfall along the South Texas coast late Tuesday morning, marking the inaugural storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season to do so within the United States.
The landfall occurred just prior to 10 a.m. CT (11 a.m. ET) on Padre Island, Texas. The National Hurricane Center reported that Harold arrived with sustained winds of 50 mph and higher gusts.
As this event transpired, the storm brought heavy rainfall and robust winds that are expected to persist across sections of South Texas and Mexico, as well as inland areas.
Throughout Tuesday afternoon and evening, Tropical Storm Harold is forecasted to move westward, resulting in an escalation of rain intensity and a broader distribution of tropical storm-force winds across South Texas.
Specifically, the regions from the mouth of the Rio Grande to Port O’Connor, Texas, have been issued tropical storm warnings. Concurrently, tropical storm watches extend from Port O’Connor to Sargent, Texas. Remarkably, more than one million individuals in Texas find themselves under tropical storm warnings.
During the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, Harold is projected to deposit 3 to 5 inches of rainfall across South Texas, with localized regions possibly experiencing up to 7 inches. For Mexico, precipitation is anticipated to range between 4 to 6 inches.
Notably, the vicinity where Harold made landfall will encounter tropical storm-force winds, featuring sustained speeds of 40 to 50 mph and gusts of up to 65 mph. As the storm advances inland on Tuesday afternoon, wind speeds are likely to moderate somewhat, although locally-damaging gusts of 30-40 mph remain conceivable.
The potential for a storm surge between 1 to 3 feet raises concerns for brief flooding in coastal low-lying areas, encompassing the mouth of the Rio Grande River to Sargent, Baffin Bay, Corpus Christi, and Matagorda Bay.
Life-threatening surf and rip current conditions are anticipated along the southern Texas coast until Tuesday, accompanied by the possibility of isolated tornado formation.
This storm event occurs against the backdrop of Southern Texas wrestling with one of the hottest and driest summers in its historical records.
While the rains accompanying this tropical system may alleviate drought conditions, areas grappling with severe and exceptional drought in Central Texas could potentially miss out on the anticipated precipitation.
To preempt the storm’s impact, Governor Greg Abbott has deployed the Texas National Guard and swift water rescue boat squads, among other emergency assets. In a statement, the governor affirmed Texas’ readiness to allocate all available resources to South Texas as it confronts tropical storm conditions.
In alignment with this sentiment, it’s advised that Texans maintain awareness of weather updates and adhere to the advice of state and local authorities, as well as emergency management personnel, who are collaboratively working to ensure community safety.
Prudent steps have been taken in anticipation of the storm’s arrival. South Beach and North Beach have been closed to driving and camping, while in the Corpus Christi area, efforts are underway to prepare essential canals and drainage systems for the anticipated heavy rainfall.
The city of Port Aransas has declared a local state disaster, recognizing the impending impacts of the storm on its coastal beaches.
Outlook for Rainfall
Anticipated precipitation for the upcoming week is as follows:
The Naval Air Station Kingsville has issued an evacuation order for the RV Park on its premises. Voluntary evacuations are also in place for Riviera, Baffin Bay, and Loyola Beach. AEP Texas, responsible for power delivery in South Texas, is making arrangements for crews, equipment, and resources to mitigate potential power outages.
Franklin Brings Imminent Concerns
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Franklin is poised to hit Hispaniola with the potential for life-threatening flooding and mudslides. Puerto Rico is also expected to experience heavy rainfall due to the storm.
As of Tuesday morning, Franklin maintained sustained winds of 50 mph and was situated over the Caribbean Sea, approximately 260 miles south of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Its projected trajectory involves a sharp northward turn, ultimately making landfall in Hispaniola on Wednesday.
Spanning Tuesday through Wednesday, Tropical Storm Franklin is projected to unleash substantial rainfall across Hispaniola, raising the risk of flash floods and mudslides.
In isolated cases, rainfall amounts could reach up to 15 inches. Puerto Rico may receive up to 6 inches of heavy rain by Thursday, although the island is anticipated to avoid the worst impacts of Franklin.
An Escalating Hurricane Season
These developments signal heightened activity in the Atlantic hurricane season. Remarkably, within a span of 24 hours from Saturday into Sunday, three tropical systems emerged. Tropical Storm Harold now joins the roster, marking the fourth storm event in as many days.