A hurricane developing near Texas has prompted evacuations and emergency warnings from local officials as the storm was expected to bring flash flooding and life-threatening storm surges to a region badly hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Storm Hanna, the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season, was forecast to make landfall on the Texas coast on Saturday, threatening one of the nation's Covid-19 hot spots.
Hanna was about 75 miles (120 km) east-northeast of Port Mansfield, Texas, packing maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour, the US National Hurricane Centre said on Saturday morning.
"Additional strengthening is forecast before Hanna makes landfall later today," the Miami-based forecaster said, adding that the hurricane will rapidly weaken after it moves inland.
Video footage on Twitter of Port Aransas in Nueces County, Texas showed grey skies and lashing waves that had already engulfed a beach ahead of the storm's landfall.
The storm was projected to hit the coast between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, a region that has struggled to contain coronavirus outbreaks in recent weeks. Cases along the state's coast have soared into the tens of thousands, and more than 400 people in Corpus Christi's city of 325,000 were hospitalised with the novel coronavirus on Friday, according to city data.
On Friday, residents in several Texas communities in Kleberg County, south of Corpus Christi, were urged to evacuate their homes ahead of Hanna's arrival.
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb warned residents who live in flood-prone areas to heed coronavirus precautions when deciding to evacuate, the Texas Tribune reported.
"Take several masks with you because you might be there a couple days if you're in a flood area," Mr McComb said, according to the Tribune. "We don't want to expose anyone during this storm. ... Even when you're in the house, I recommend wearing a mask if you're in crowded conditions."
Hanna will be the second named storm this season to make landfall along the US Gulf of Mexico, after Tropical Storm Cristobal, which hit Louisiana in early June. Hanna could bring a life-threatening storm surge and flash flooding, with up to 15 inches of rain in pockets of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico.
The storm is not expected to affect offshore oil and gas production. Energy companies have not evacuated workers or shut down production from their Gulf of Mexico platforms because of Hanna.
Reuters contributed to this report
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