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Hurricane Hanna hits Texas adding to Covid-19 challenge

Storm Hanna becomes the first hurricane of the 2020 season, hitting the coronavirus-troubled state of Texas. Meanwhile Gonzalo is the earliest 7th named storm in the Atlantic basin this year.

A satellite image shows Hurricane Hanna in the Gulf of Mexico and approaching the coast of Texas, U.S., July 25, 2020.  NOAA/Handout via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Storm Hanna has become the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season, with the National Hurricane Center advising of life threatening storm surge on the Texas Coast, with Hanna also expected to produce heavy rains across sections of southern Texas and north-eastern Mexico.

Storm Hanna becomes first hurricane of 2020 season

Hurricane Hanna battered the south Texas coast with blistering winds and crashing waves into the early hours of Sunday, leaving a large area already badly hit by Covid-19 bracing for torrential downpours and potential flash floods.

Hanna came ashore on Padre Island on Saturday afternoon as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, and later made a second landfall in Eastern Kennedy County, Texas. Weakening as it headed west over land, Hanna was a tropical storm by Sunday morning, with its center about 40 miles (65 km) from Mcallen, Texas and about 65 miles (105 km) from Monterrey, Mexico, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. At 0400 CDT (0900 GMT), Hanna's top sustained winds were around 60 miles per hour (95 kph), it said.

It was forecast to further lose steam as it moved across Texas and northeastern Mexico. The center cancelled storm surge warning it had issued for the Texas coast but said Hanna could dump upward of 18 inches (45 cm) of rain in the area through Monday.

Local residents Alejandero Carcano, 16, and Jesse Garewal, 18, surf in high swells from Hurricane Hanna in Galveston, Texas, U.S., 25 July 2020.
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Local residents Alejandero Carcano, 16, and Jesse Garewal, 18, surf in high swells from Hurricane Hanna in Galveston, Texas, U.S., 25 July 2020.ADREES LATIFREUTERS

'This rain will produce, life-threatening flash flooding, rapid rises on small streams, and isolated minor to moderate river flooding,' the NHC said. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a Saturday briefing that the storm was especially challenging as it was sweeping through an area of the state that has been the worst hit by the coronavirus. He issued a disaster declaration for 32 counties in Texas that were in the storm's path.

The storm was not expected to affect offshore oil and gas production. Energy companies have not evacuated workers or shut down production from their Gulf of Mexico platforms because of Hanna. 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. More than 400 people in Corpus Christi were hospitalized with the illness on Friday, according to city data.

Gonzalo not expected to hit hurricane wind speeds

Tropical Storm Gonzalo is moving westward across the Caribbean. Gonzalo is expected to bring maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, being of Tropical Storm Force, rather than hurricane level winds. Note that Gonzalo will bring some higher gusts.

A category one hurricane has winds ranging from 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h), meaning that Tropical Storm Gonzalo is unlikely to reach hurricane status.

Gonzalo is a small storm, so its impacts are expected to be minimal, however flooding rain, life-threatening flash floods, high winds, rough surf and coastal flooding could occur in parts of the Windward Islands. There could also be a risk of mudslides over mountainous terrain, and wind gusts too could be stronger over higher terrain.

Tropical Storm Gonzalo
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Tropical Storm Gonzalo

Tropical storm force winds are extending around 35 miles from the centre of Gonzalo.

The storm is expected to weaken as it moves into the Caribbean Sea and will likely dissipate by the middle of next week.

Gonzalo: earliest seventh named storm on record in the Atlantic basin

Tropical Storm Gonzalo is the earliest seventh named tropical storm on record in the Atlantic basin in a hurricane season, knocking out the previous record holder Storm Gert, which developed on 24 July, 2005.