Hurricane Hanna has pummelled the south Texas coast with howling winds and a surging sea that threatened a broad area already contending with an intense spike in coronavirus deaths.
Hanna is the first hurricane for the 2020 Atlantic storm season, which is expected to be unlike any other in recent memory. Authorities will have to contend with sheltering and evacuating people while also maintaining social distancing protocols and other pandemic restrictions.
By Saturday night, Hanna's blistering winds were ripping up the Texas coast near Corpus Christi. A deadly storm surge was expected to hit a 480km area of the shoreline, from the town of Sargent in the north to Port Mansfield in the south, the National Hurricane Center said.
The NHC forecast that Hanna would lose steam as it moved inland across Texas and northeastern Mexico overnight into Sunday. But the storm could dump upward of 45cm of rain in the area through Monday. That could cause life-threatening flash floods, while the storm could spawn tornadoes on the coastal plains.
The Texas area struck by Hanna has struggled to contain outbreaks of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Cases along the state's coast have soared into the tens of thousands, and more than 400 people in Corpus Christi's city of 325,000 were hospitalised with the novel coronavirus on Friday, according to city data.
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb warned residents who live in flood-prone areas to heed coronavirus precautions when evacuating.
"Take several masks with you because you might be there a couple days if you're in a flood area," McComb said, according to the Tribune. "We don't want to expose anyone during this storm. ... Even when you're in the house, I recommend wearing a mask if you're in crowded conditions."
Australian Associated Press