CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — A day after roaring ashore as a hurricane, Hanna lashed the Texas Gulf Coast on Sunday with high winds and drenching rains that destroyed boats, flooded streets and knocked out power across a region already reeling from a surge in coronavirus cases.
Downgraded to a tropical storm, Hanna passed over the U.S.-Mexico border with winds near 50 mph (85 kph), the National Hurricane Center said. It unloaded more than 12 inches (30 centimetres) on parts of South Texas and northeastern Mexico.
Border communities whose health care systems were already strained by COVID-19 cases — with some patients being airlifted to larger cities — found themselves grappling with Hanna.
A community building known as the “Dome” in the border town of Mercedes was set aside for evacuees who had tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus. Across the region, shelters were also opened in hotels, schools and gyms.
Coastal states scrambled this spring to adjust emergency hurricane plans to account for the virus, and Hanna was the first big test. Gov. Greg Abbott said Saturday that some people in need of shelter would be given hotel rooms to keep them apart from others.
Abbott also announced Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved an emergency declaration that will provide federal aid.
The first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season blew ashore as a Category 1 storm late Saturday afternoon with winds of 90 mph (145 kph) not far from Port Mansfield, which is about 130 miles (210 kilometers) south of Corpus Christi.
More than 150,000 customers lost power Sunday throughout South Texas, including Corpus Christi, Harlingen and Brownsville, according to AEP Texas.
Corpus Christi is in Nueces County, where health officials made headlines when they revealed that 60 babies tested positive for COVID-19 from July 1 to July 16. Farther south in Cameron County, more than 300 new cases have been reported almost daily for the past two weeks. The past week has also been the county’s deadliest of the pandemic.