by Sarah J.F. Braley | August 25, 2017
In an update on its website this morning, the Galveston, Texas, Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that rain from Hurricane Harvey had begun. Winds were still mild -- the average around 5:45 a.m. was 10.5 mph with gusts to 13.8 mph -- but should get stronger and stronger all day as Harvey aims for the coast.

The City of Houston currently is under a tropical-storm warning until further notice; a storm-surge watch until further notice; and a flash-flood watch from 4 a.m. Friday to 7 a.m. on Monday.
 
The National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will make landfall sometime early Saturday morning; wind measurements for Harvey this morning were 110 mph, making it a Category 2 storm, but it is expected to become a Category 3 hurricane before it hits the coast, possibly becoming the strongest storm to hit the U.S. in 12 years. 

The big problem for Galveston, Houston and other coastal cities, however, is that the storm could stall, dumping copious amounts of water and further endangering lives in the area. According to the NHC, "Since Harvey is embedded within light shear and moving over warm waters, additional strengthening is anticipated before landfall in about 24 hours. Thereafter, gradual weakening is forecast, but since a good portion of the circulation will remain over water, the weakening process could be slower than normal."
 
Most Houston-area schools have canceled classes for today and Monday, allowing families to decide whether to head to higher ground or hunker down, according to the Houston Chronicle. In anticipation of this weekend's weather, Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday declared a state of disaster for 30 counties, including Galveston County and Houston's Harris County. Predictions for rainfall range from 10 to 18 inches -- or more, if the storm stalls -- with the accompanying storm surges adding to the danger. The seven counties on the coast have ordered mandatory evacuations for residents in all low-lying areas, and voluntary evacuations have been requested around the region.
 

The Port of Galveston has been closed to all vessel traffic and commercial activities. Still, Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas is on schedule for a turnaround at the port on Sunday; that information is expected to be updated on the cruise line's blog by noon Friday.

In a statement, Carnival Cruise Line said, "Currently the Carnival Freedom and Carnival Valor are at sea and will remain a safe distance from the storm. Both ships will make a brief stop in New Orleans on Saturday to replenish fuel, fresh water and food supplies. Guests who wish to terminate their cruise at that point and disembark in New Orleans may do so. However, given the severity and projected path of the storm along with potential challenges guests may encounter attempting to travel back to Galveston independently, we are strongly encouraging them to remain on board as we intend to return the ships to Galveston as soon as feasible.
 
"The next scheduled voyages for Carnival Freedom and Carnival Valor will be shortened with itineraries to be determined. Guests who sail on modified voyages will receive a pro-rated refund equal to the number of cruise days missed. Those who wish to cancel may do so without penalty and receive a future cruise credit.
 
"Additional information regarding Carnival Breeze, which was originally scheduled to turn around in Galveston on Sunday, will be added soon."

Guests scheduled on Carnival cruises should register to receive alerts by texting these codes to 278473: for Carnival Freedom, text CCL1; for Carnival Valor, text CCL2; and for Carnival Breeze, text CCL3.