Hurricane Harvey, now a slow-moving storm, continues to pound southeastern Texas with rain and wind, impacting the local economy and perhaps nationwide.
Rockport has been the hardest hit, with Corpus Christi and Houston seeing major damage as well. The National Weather Service has continuously issued flash flood warnings throughout the day and night. Rising water levels were shoulder-high in parts of the Houston metro area by Sunday morning, and there have been over 1,000 high-water rescues in the area during the overnight hours.
While coastal parts of the Lone Star State have already sustained a blow from the initial impact of Harvey, continued devastation is expected due to the ongoing flooding threat, particularly inland, along with sustained wind gusts of 70 miles an hour. The area between Corpus Christi and Houston — a corridor about 210 miles long — could see as much as another 30 inches of rain on top of the rainfall over the weekend. The National Hurricane Center is now predicting that Harvey will hover over the area through at least midweek.
Residents in the areas hit hardest had been told ahead of time to stay home, and local retailers had also closed for the safety of customers and employees.
Wal-Mart closed nearly 80 stores including Sam’s Club, along with a few distribution and fulfillment centers. The discount giant is also providing $1 million in support relief through its Wal-Mart Foundation in the form of cash and product donations, and will be working closely with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.
Emergency personnel from New York, Florida, Nevada and California were heading to Texas on Sunday to help with relief efforts. Apple has added banners to its web site and the iTunes Store encouraging customers to donate to help with relief efforts.
Other immediate area retail centers such as Baybrook Mall in southeast Houston, Houston Premium Outlets about 35 minutes from downtown Houston and the Houston Galleria were closed Saturday and expected to close on Sunday as well. Shopping centers further away such as University Park Village in Fort Worth and Deerbrook Mall in the greater Houston metro area were open. A manager who answered the phone at Dillard’s, an anchor retailer at Deerbrook, said the area saw “rain on and off.” A store employee at an Ulta Beauty store at the Shops at Park Lane in the heart of Dallas said there was “some rain in the morning, but it’s business as usual.” Other Ulta stores in the Houston area were closed. An Ulta spokeswoman said the company’s immediate concern is of “our associates, their families and members of communities in the path of this major storm.” She added that the company is “providing support to our associates and evaluating options for how we can support surrounding communities in the days and weeks ahead.”
The La Palmera mall in Corpus Christi, the location of the eye of the storm, was closed on Saturday, but was available as a host site for the local police department personnel who needed cover during the storm. The mall said on Facebook Sunday that the center received “only minimal damage and the mall does have power.” The posting said the mall would be open Sunday, with limited services, and that it was unclear how many of its 150 stores would be open for business.
While the local economy is expected to see an immediate hit from the devastation of the storm, the rebuilding of the area could help boost the economy over time.
The areas hit by Harvey are also home to many oil refineries, with the area accounting for about a quarter of the U.S. gas production in the Gulf. Oil and gas operations were shut down before the storm hit. Some shale fields are expected to be out of commission for the next month or two. Given the disruption, consumers across the U.S. reportedly could see pump prices rise 15 to 25 cents a gallon. The AAA said Sunday that the national average is $2.363 a gallon, and a 15-cent increase would bring that to $2.513.