CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As residents of the Texas Gulf Coast braced for days of "catastrophic" flooding from a weakened tropical storm Harvey, the mayor of the small town Rockport reported the state's first fatality, a man trapped in his burning house during the height of the hurricane.
Mayor C. J. Wax, who earlier said the town took the hurricane "right on the nose," said authorities did not discover the body of the victim until Saturday morning.
Rockport, with a population of 10,000, and nearby Port Aransas, took the brunt of the Category 4 storm as it slammed into the coast late Friday.
At least 10 injuries were reported from collapsed roofs in Rockport which is 25 miles northeast of Corpus Christi.
Nearby Port Aransas, with a population of 4,000, was particularly vulnerable perched on a narrow strip of Mustang Island, which sits at the entrance to Corpus Christi Bay. It registered the strongest wind gust of 132 mph from Harvey, according to the National Weather Service.
The two towns, like dozens over others in the area, reported widespread damage as emergency teams searched for any survivors trapped in low-lying areas or collapsed buildings.
As of 1 p.m. CDT, Harvey is located 45 miles west-northwest of Victoria, Texas, and is moving to the north-northwest at 2 mph.
About 80 to 100 people are believed to have tried to ride out the storm in Port Aransas, which suffered extreme damage, including downed power lines, destroyed homes and businesses.
Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan said he and his first responders were still struggling to reach the island. Police officers and heavy equipment crews were attempting to enter the barrier island from the south, he said. As of Saturday morning, no fatalities or injuries had been reported there.
“The debris is so massive and the destruction is so massive, we haven’t been able to get in,” Bujan said.
Port Aransas City Manager David Parsons said they are mobilizing state police, troopers, National Guard and local law enforcement to conduct search-and-rescue efforts.
Early Saturday, Harvey’s destruction could be seen as far south as Corpus Christi, with downed street lights and trees blocking some downtown streets.
Fulton, a seaside community just north of Rockport, was a tangle of downed power lines, upended RVs and crushed homes. Downed trees blocked some roads in town; others were completely covered in floodwaters.
The roof from a nearby building was strewn across Texas State Highway 35, blocking one of the main entrances to Fulton and Rockport. In the middle of the night, as Harvey’s roars turned to quiet from the hurricane’s eye, some residents retreated to a local elementary school building.
“It was like being in another world,” said David Cameron, assistant chief of the Fulton Volunteer Fire Department, who helped rescue residents. “And there’s still a lot to do.”
Kevin Carruth, city manager of Rockport, said the courthouse had been hard hit, with a cargo trailer ending up halfway in the building. He said several people were taken to a makeshift hospital at the county jail for treatment after the roof of a senior housing complex collapsed.
The Austin American-Statesman reported from Rockport that the smell of gas filled the air at the Rockport-Fulton High School where the gymnasium was destroyed; the auditorium’s doors were caved in, and windows were shattered.
Rockport found itself on the deadly right-hand side of the eye of the storm as Harvey came ashore packing 130-mph winds.That location left it vulnerable to the dangerous storm surges as the winds piled up the Gulf waters and drove it ashore.
At 10 a.m. CDT, the National Hurricane Center clocked Harvey's sustained wins at 75 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane. It will likely slow to a tropical storm later in the day. The center of the storm was located 25 miles west of Victoria, Texas, and was crawling to the north at 2 mph.
In Corpus Christi, city officials appealed to residents to reduce their use of toilets and faucets because of power outages at the city's wastewater treatment plants.
Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking at the state's emergency oipreations center in Austin, reported 338,000 power outages statewide.
He also praised the "resience" of those people who took the state's advice and evacuated the threatened areas for inland cities.
“It was so heartening to shake the hands of those evacuees as they got off those buses,” the governor told reporters. “They were what I call typical Texans. They were resilient, they were strong, but mostly, they were happy to be alive.”
Elsewhere, The Texas Department of Criminal Justice saids it will evacuate about 4,500 inmates from units along the Brazos River in Rosharon as the flood threat in upland areas intensified.
President Trump tweeted Saturday morning he was closely monitoring the hurricane, "leaving nothing to chance."
Although no longer a major hurricane, Harvey is far from a spent force. The National Weather Service says Harvey is expected to stall and spin for the next three to five days, delivering storm surges up to 12 feet in some areas and "catastrophic" flooding along the middle and upper Texas coast. It could also slip back into the Gulf and regenerate as a powerful storm and head up the coast toward Louisiana.
The Coast Guard, which urged Texas residents to remain where they are and stay off the water, sent helicopter crews to respond to three tugboats sending distress signals from near the Lydia Ann Channel near Port Aransas. The Coast Guard said one barge with four people aboard had broken free of its mooring and was adrift. On Friday, the Guard snatched 12 people aboard a 160-foot vessel taking on water near Port Mansfield, Texas.
The hurricane also left some 20,000 passengers stranded on four cruise ships that found conditions too dangerous to return to Galveston, KTRK-TV reported. The Carnival Valor and Carnival Freedom, which planned to return to Galveston on Friday, will instead head for New Orleans, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Carnival Breeze stayed in Cozumel Friday night and was expected to leavet for Galveston Saturday, while the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas was expected to wait until Sunday to sail back to Texas, according to the report.
With Harvey hitting as a Category 4 hurricane, the record 4,324-day span between U.S. “major” hurricane (Category 3 and above) landfalls has ended, said University of Miami meteorologist Brian McNoldy. Before Harvey, the most recent major hurricane landfall had been Wilma in October 2005.
Harvey is only the fourth Category 4 or 5 hurricane to hit the U.S. since 1970, according to Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach. The other three were Hugo, Andrew and Charley.
Kirsten Crow, Rick Jervis, Doug Stanglin and Doyle Rice of the USA TODAY NETWORK contributed to this report.