Gulf Coast towns evacuate as Harvey approaches

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) -- At least two cities along the Texas Gulf Coast are ordering mandatory evacuations as Hurricane Harvey approaches the coastline.

The cities of Port Aransas and Aransas Pass issued evacuation orders Thursday, hours before forecasters expect heavy winds and rain from the storm to begin. Together, the towns are home to around 12,000 people, located next to the Gulf of Mexico.

Aransas Pass police have warned residents that rescuers may not be able to reach them during the storm.

Authorities have placed nearly the entire Texas Gulf Coast under a hurricane or tropical storm watch. Other cities and towns along the 367-mile (591-kilometer) coastline have urged residents to prepare their homes for a storm that could stall inland for as many as three days.

The National Hurricane Center says winds of 125 mph (201 kph) are expected as Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas coast.

The center said Thursday afternoon that Harvey is expected to become a major hurricane by Friday before it reaches the middle Texas coast. As the hurricane approaches Texas, the hurricane's winds have increased to 85 mph (138 kph).

Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen says, "We're forecasting continuing intensification right up until landfall."

The hurricane is expected to make landfall in Texas on Friday night or early Saturday, then stall near the middle Texas coast through the weekend.

The hurricane is expected to produce up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain and up to 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain in isolated areas over the middle and upper Texas coast through early next week.

The National Hurricane Center is calling Hurricane Harvey life-threatening and said its track may keep it strong and kicking longer than they previously thought, into early next week.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Harvey is expected to bring life-threatening and devastating flooding from heavy rainfall and storm surge, which is an abnormal rise of water above the normal tide.

The center says Harvey is expected to approach the middle Texas coast Friday and make landfall by that night or early Saturday. It then will likely stall near the coast or just inland through the weekend.