A powerful storm has made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane in what officials have warned could be a “major disaster” for the US state and surrounding areas.
The eye of Hurricane Harvey hit land between the Port of Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas late on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
It is expected to be the most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland since 2005.
Prior to the storm making landfall, US President Donald Trump signed a disaster proclamation for Texas, freeing up federal funds for assistance.
Earlier in the day, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had asked Trump to preemptively declare Harvey a “major disaster” in order to speed federal aid.
“We can obviously tell already at this stage this is going to be a very major disaster,” Abbot said, as more than 1,000 National Guardsmen were activated.
“We’re going to be dealing with really record-setting flooding in multiple regions.”
Motorways leading from coastal areas were jammed as authorities issued urgent warnings to hundreds of thousands of residents to flee. Some motorways were to be turned into one-way roads to speed the exodus from the storm zone.
There were also reports of massive power outages as the storm approached Texas’ coast.
Harvey, the first major storm of the annual Atlantic hurricane season, was packing maximum sustained winds of 195km per hour.
The storm is expected to dump up to 89cm of rain over a four or five-day period in parts of Texas.