Tropical Storm Hanna closes in on Texas Gulf Coast — Here’s what you need to know

Tropical Storm Hanna is gaining strength, and is expected to make landfall on the south Texas coast on Saturday - potentially as a Category 1 Hurricane. 

Hanna formed in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday evening, and as of Friday afternoon, the system was located only about 200 miles from the Texas coast.

Some rain bands and thunderstorms from Hanna are already sweeping into sections of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as Hanna continues to churn in the gulf.

The storm is moving to the west-northwest at 9 mph across the Gulf of Mexico, and this will continue to move in the westerly direction toward southern Texas. Hanna’s wind speeds increased to 50 mph.

“The NHC forecast track continues to show the center making landfall along the south-central coast of Texas within the tropical storm warning area, which is in good agreement with the various consensus models,” Dennis Feltgen, Meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center said.

Main threats will include locally heavy rain, gusty winds up to 60 mph, high surf, and flash flooding for the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

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“The center of Hanna should make landfall along the Texas coast within the warning area Saturday afternoon or evening,” Feltgen said.

This means significant rainfall is anticipated over the weekend and dangerous flash flooding is expected to be a widespread threat along sections of Texas.

“This rain may result in life-threatening flash flooding, rapid rises on small streams, and isolated minor to moderate river flooding in south Texas,” Feltgen said.

Rainfall amounts up to 4-8 inches will be possible with the system, with potential localized rainfall totals up to 12 inches through Sunday night. Showers are likely to persist through the weekend, possibly into early next week.

“3 to 5 inches of rain is expected along the upper Texas and Louisiana coasts, and inland to the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and northern Tamaulipas,” Feltgen said.

Feltgen said the combination of storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. “The water could reach 1-3 feet above ground somewhere in the warning area if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide,” Feltgen noted.

A Tropical Storm Warning was in effect for the Texas coastline from the mouth of the Rio Grande to San Luis Pass on Thursday afternoon. A warning means the conditions are expected in the next 36 hours.

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According to The National Weather Service San Antonio, Tropical Storm Hanna may become a Category 1 hurricane just before landfall on Saturday. 

Either way, Feltgen says the impacts can be significant. “There is no such thing as ‘just a’ tropical storm. The impacts of wind and water are dangerous. And Hanna will be strengthening as it approaches the coast," Feltgen added.

Tropical Storm Hanna is the earliest eighth named storm on record, beating Tropical Storm Harvey’s record set in 2005, according to Phil Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University specializing in hurricane forecasts.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center forecasted an above-average Atlantic Hurricane Season in its 2020 May outlook for the season. “That is exactly what has been taking place,” Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with NOAA and the National Hurricane Center, said.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, and the first two months of the season are typically quite slow. But 2020 has proven to be active in the Atlantic, as seven named storms have already formed.