Harold was downgraded to a tropical depression after making landfall as a tropical storm on Padre Island, Texas, on Tuesday morning, capping an extraordinarily busy 48 hours for an Atlantic hurricane season that saw three other storms form in quick succession.
Harold pummeled parts of southern Texas with heavy rain on Tuesday, and was expected to deliver up to six inches of rainfall in isolated areas through early Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.
By the afternoon, the storm had already delivered up to two inches of rain in several places, including at Corpus Christi International Airport, said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Around seven inches had fallen on Mustang Island, east of the airport, he said.
By Tuesday evening, the storm had weakened to a tropical depression but heavy rain continued, forecasters said.
“It’s moving very quickly,” Mr. Oravec said, noting that he did not anticipate the heavy rainfall to last that long.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said that the state had deployed emergency response resources including rescue boats, search and rescue teams and platoons from the Texas National Guard. In Corpus Christi, several roads were closed because of flooding, the city said, urging residents to drive slowly, turn on headlights and find alternate routes.
Billy Delgado, emergency management coordinator for Corpus Christi, said there were no fatalities or injuries, and the majority of calls the city is receiving are about road closures and fallen trees. “We’ve been through a lot of flooding,” Mr. Delgado said. “We were well-prepared.”
Meteorologists said the storm made landfall around 10 a.m. local time on Padre Island, a popular tourist area known for its beaches. Videos posted to social media appeared to show darkening skies and palm trees and street signs teetering in the wind. By 1 p.m., the core of the storm had moved inland, forecasters said. Harold was moving west-northwest at around 21 miles per hour toward southern Texas and northern Mexico, they said. Several areas remained under tropical storm warnings and watches.
Harold, which follows the storms Emily, Franklin and Gert, is the first storm of the Atlantic Hurricane season to make landfall.
More than 25,000 businesses and homes in the state were without power as of around 4 p.m. local time, according to poweroutage.us.
Share of customers without power by county
Source: PowerOutage.usNotes:Counties shown are those with at least 1 percent of customers without power.By The New York Times
Another tropical storm, Hilary, lashed the West Coast over the weekend. Of the three other storms to form since Sunday, only Franklin was expected to remain a threat to land into Tuesday, with tropical storm warnings issued for the southern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Harold had sustained winds near 45 miles per hour, with higher gusts, the Hurricane Center said. Tropical disturbances that have sustained winds of 39 m.p.h. earn a name. Once winds reach 74 m.p.h., a storm becomes a hurricane, and at 111 m.p.h. it becomes a major hurricane.
The Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
The National Weather Service released the storm names for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which started June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
Atlantic hurricanes are named according to six rotating alphabetical lists. Here are the new hurricane names →
This year, the 21 names are: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harold, Idalia, Jose, Katia, Lee, Margot, Nigel, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.
The 2022 list will be used again in 2028, and the 2023 list was last used in 2017.
If all of the names are exhausted — as happened in 2020, when there were 30 named storms — a supplemental list will be used.
Four names from the 2017 list do not appear this year because they have been retired.
They are: Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate.
Names are retired when a storm causes history-making destruction or death and reusing the name would be insensitive to people who were affected by the storm.
In 2022, the hurricane season had 14 named storms, eight of which strengthened to become hurricanes.
Two of these, Fiona and Ian, were major hurricanes. Both reached Category 4 status, with maximum sustained winds exceeding 130 miles an hour.
Read more about hurricanes.
- Population Growth Is Making Hurricanes More Expensive
- Hurricane Season Ends, Marked by Quiet August and Deadly September
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In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that there would be 12 to 17 named storms this year, a “near-normal” amount. On Aug. 10, NOAA officials revised their estimate upward, to 14 to 21 storms.
There were 14 named storms last year, after two extremely busy Atlantic hurricane seasons in which forecasters ran out of names and had to resort to backup lists. (A record 30 named storms took place in 2020.)
This year features an El Niño pattern, which arrived in June. The intermittent climate phenomenon can have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world, and it typically impedes the number of Atlantic hurricanes.
In the Atlantic, El Niño increases the amount of wind shear, or the change in wind speed and direction from the ocean or land surface into the atmosphere. Hurricanes need a calm environment to form, and the instability caused by increased wind shear makes those conditions less likely. (El Niño has the opposite effect in the Pacific, reducing the amount of wind shear.)
At the same time, this year’s heightened sea surface temperatures pose a number of threats, including the ability to supercharge storms.
That unusual confluence of factors has made solid storm predictions more difficult.
“Stuff just doesn’t feel right,” said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, after NOAA released its updated forecast in August. “There’s just a lot of kind of screwy things that we haven’t seen before.”
There is solid consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of climate change. Although there might not be more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.
Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain that storms can produce. In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, which means a named storm can hold and produce more rainfall, like Hurricane Harvey did in Texas in 2017, when some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.
Colbi Edmonds and Mike Ives contributed reporting.
Judson Jones is a meteorologist and reporter for The Times, covering extreme weather around the world. More about Judson Jones
Livia Albeck-Ripka is a reporter for The Times based in California. She was previously a reporter in the Australia bureau. More about Livia Albeck-Ripka
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