Aug. 24 (UPI) — Tropical Storm Harvey has intensified into a Category 2 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said Friday morning.
The storm, which is expected to turn into a major Category 3 hurricane and has prompted warnings for the Texas coast, continues to pick up strength in the Gulf of Mexico — and is expected to make landfall in the Lone Star State late Friday or early Saturday.
A Category 3 hurricane is rated as “major” on the NHC’s scale. Harvey would be the first hurricane that severe to make landfall anywhere in the continental United States since Hurricane Wilma hit Florida in October 2005.
The NHC said in its 11 p.m. EDT advisory that Harvey is moving northwest at 10 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. The center of the storm is about 210 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, and 210 miles south-southeast of Port O’Connor.
“Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Harvey is expected to become a hurricane by Friday,” the same day it reaches the Texas coast, the NHC said.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Port Mansfield to Sargent along the Texas coast. A hurricane watch covers from Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande.
There also is a tropical storm warning north of of Matagorda to High Island and south of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande. A tropical storm watch was in effect from south of the mouth of the Rio Grande to Boca de Catan, Mexico.
If Harvey reaches Texas as a hurricane, it would be the state’s first since 2008.
This pass is the second go-around for Harvey, which arrived in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week. It turned into a tropical storm, dissipated, and then re-strengthened over the warm waters of the gulf, meteorologists said.
On Friday evening, the storm is expected to make a turn toward the northwest and its forward speed should slow over the next two days.
Harvey has produced several inches of total rainfall and generated flash flood warnings in some locations. The sluggish nature of the storm could dump between 15 inches and 25 inches over the middle and upper coast of Texas, with some isolated accumulations of 35 inches.
Forecasters said the storm could also generate swells with potentially life-threatening surf and rip current conditions in the Texas, Louisiana and northeast Mexico coasts by Friday.
There was a storm surge warning from Port Mansfield to High Island Texas and a storm surge watch from south of Port Mansfield to mouth of the Rio Grande.
The NHC also said tornadoes are possible Friday across portions of the middle and upper Texas coast.
Due to the weather in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko Petroleum company said it pulled non-essential staff from its offshore facilities.