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It comes after the strength of the storm was increased by the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) to Category 3 on Friday afternoon, alongside the warning it was “rapidly intensifying”.
The natural disaster is expected to slam the coast of Texas and Louisiana tonight or early tomorrow, and may bring 35 inches of rain, wind speeds of 125mph and storm surges of 12ft.
Forecasters are labelling it a “life-threatening storm” as fears mount that it could be the worst to hit the mainland since Katrina in 2005.
Texas governor Greg Abbott said the hurricane is “turning into a very complex and dangerous hurricane”, adding that he had asked President Donald Trump for a federal disaster declaration.
In a letter he said: “The storm surge, coupled with the deluge of rain, could easily lead to billions of dollars of property damage and almost certainly loss of life.”
On Thursday it developed from a tropical depression into a Category 1 hurricane, before growing into a Category 2 storm early on Friday.
It had become a Category 3 storm by Friday afternoon.
“We’re forecasting continuing intensification right up until landfall,” NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said earlier.
Louisiana and Texas have declared states of disaster, authorising the use of state resources to prepare for the storm.
Mandatory evacuations of tens of thousands of residents in low-lying areas have been ordered in all seven Texas counties on the coast from Corpus Christi to the western end of Galveston Island.
In four of those counties officials ordered their entire county to be evacuated and warned those who stayed behind that no one could be guaranteed rescue.
In coastal Texan city of Corpus Christi, where the storm was expected to strike first, supermarket shelves have been clearing quickly and sandbags provided to residents.
Energy companies have shut coastal refineries, pulling workers from offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and halting onshore drilling in south Texas.
Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican strategist and president of the Potomac Strategy Group, told Business Insider: “What’s unusual about Trump is that he has, as far as I know, zero disaster response experience.”
Mr Trump weighed in on Twitter on Thursday night, saying: “As #HurricaneHarvey intensifies – remember to #PlanAhead.”
He added in a second tweet: “With Hurricane Harvey approaching landfall, remember, the USA is the most resilient nation on earth because we plan ahead. Preparedness is an investment in our future.”
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