THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 33 32 THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 The National Hurricane Center’s 3:00 a.m. advisory on Sunday, August 20th, was titled “Remnants of Har- vey,” and officially stated that the storm had dissipated, requested three hourly reports from shipping interests within 300 miles, and stated that it was the final advisory on the system unless regeneration occurred. And it did. The loosely-defined tropical system meandered over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula from Sunday through Tuesday, during which the NHC didn’t bother to issue any update or advisory at all on Harvey, having declared it a dissipated non-threat. That was until 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday the 23rd, when they stated, in a distinctly seri- ous and semi-panicked manner, “Harvey regenerates into a tropical depression,” followed by several hundred words of advisories for all imaginable interests on the Mexico and Texas coastlines, and a set of forecast possibilities including some that were highly accurate and others that were highly underestimated. The statement predicted that Harvey could strengthen into a hurricane by Friday, would make landfall late Friday evening, and could bring up to twenty inches of rain along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. “By Wednesday night we were thinking ‘Cat 1 or Cat 2 at most and some rain but no big deal,’” said one Port Aran- sas business owner who didn’t start boarding up his business until Friday afternoon, when the expected rainmaker turned into an epic threat that could impact life in the Coastal Bend for months or years to come. “We were still at it at damned near midnight Friday night, in the middle of the storm, then we had to get out,” he recalls. The National Hurricane Center declared Harvey all but dead on Sunday morning, ignored the storm for three days as it inched its way into the Bay of Campeche and the warm August waters of the Gulfstream, then began to frantically warn the public of Harvey’s potential threat to the Texas coast on Wednesday the 23rd, 56 hours before its epic landfall at St. Jo’s Island. Complacency at the NHC where Harvey was concerned flowed downstream to local media, forecasters and the public. In full fairness to the NHC and storm forecasters at large, Harvey was a once-in-a-generation meteorological challenge that…yes…they more or less failed. Instinct would tell most experienced South Texans that the biggest threats are those storms that brush across the top of the Yucatan and move into the western Gulf of Mexico. Carla, Allen (one of the most powerful storms ever that spent the most days as a Cat 5), and Beulah, all went through the Yucatan Peninsula on their way to the Coastal Bend. But Harvey was different. It meandered. It hung around in Mexico for a long weekend, had a couple margaritas, took in the sunset, then split north into the Bay of Campeche and reorganized. But even as late as 10:00 p.m. Thurs- day night, August 24th, about the time the NOAA satel- lite photo at the opening of this story was taken, Harvey was a large, kind of fluffy, Category One hurricane with 85 m.p.h. sustained winds, 250 miles southeast of Cor- pus Christi and, based on its trajectory at the time, headed straight toward the city’s center...basically into North Padre Island, then Flour Bluff, then more or less directly up SPID and into downtown, if it maintained its current course. It did not, and neither did Harvey remain a fluffy Cat 1 storm. In fact, as it approached the Coastal Bend over the course of the day on Friday, Harvey spun faster and tighter, and while it reduced in size dramatically, it just as dramatically increased in strength and severity. At the same time, it took on a northerly angle that directed it away from the center of Corpus Christi to the northern end of Mustang Island, to Port Aransas, and so close that the southwestern eye wall was visible offshore from the south jetty, as it headed to the uninhabited, private St. Joseph’s Island on the north side of the ship channel. Over Harvey’s total lifespan, from its birth as a tropical wave off the African coast on August 13th, and throughout its 3,000-mile trek across the Western Hemi- sphere, through the Caribbean, across Mexico, into the gulf and northward to Texas, its top measured wind gust was 132 m.p.h., with 110 m.p.h. sus- tained winds, as it made land- fall at PortAransas the night of Friday, August 25th. Copano Village saw 125 m.p.h. gusts, Lamar 110 m.p.h. and Rock- port 108 m.p.h.. The differ- ence where Port A was concerned was the combination of maximum winds at landfall, with maximum storm surge directly off the Gulf of Mexico—as opposed to communi- ties protected by our barrier islands, Mustang Island is a barrier island. Hurricane Harvey was the ultimate test in compla- cency for weather forecasters and hurricane hunters from the National Weather Service, which is still the one and only portal of information and advice for the public deal- ing with a looming natural disaster. After the first Tropical Storm Harvey weakened as it entered the Caribbean on Saturday, and then drifted toward the Yucatan Peninsula as a poorly organized tropical wave, should it have been declared dissipated and basically ignored until it was two hundred miles into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday? Considering that the U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunter air- crew could not make out a center or circulation, this may certainly have been a fair call. But when almost any old timer in the Coastal Bend can recognize the threat of a storm system moving into the Bay of Campeche in Au- gust, should Harvey not have caught the eye of the Na- tional Hurricane Center before Wednesday when it was in the middle of the western Gulf of Mexico? Over Harvey’s...3,000- mile trek across the Western Hemisphere...its top measured wind gust was 132 it made landfall at Port Aransas.