It was a scorching and blindingly brilliant southeast Texas summer afternoon, the kind where you don't go outside without your sunglasses, because it just plain hurts. You'd never know that lurking about 200 miles due south in the Gulf of Mexico is Tropical Storm Claudette, an evil bitch with bad intentions. OK, so that's a bit melodramatic, but it IS difficult not to be at least a little bit nervous. Anyone who has lived along the Gulf Coast for any length of time has a few horror stories.
The National Weather Service, however, is still expecting the storm to make landfall to the south, probably near Matagorda, which is a little closer to Galveston than Corpus Christi.
Already packing sustained winds of 65 mph, Claudette is likely to turn into a hurricane tonight or Tuesday morning and could hit Texas' coast as early as Tuesday afternoon. Claudette's landfall as a Level 1 hurricane is expected to bring winds closer to 75 mph than the upper limit of 95 mph, tides of 3 to 5 feet above normal levels, and 5 to 8 inches of rain.
By 7 p.m. this evening, Claudette's center was located about 230 miles east of Corpus Christi and about 130 miles southeast of Galveston, with maximum sustained winds blowing at 65 mph, still 9 mph shy of hurricane strength. Claudette is moving to the northwest at 7 mph. A turn towards the west-northwest is expected within the next six to 12 hours and the storm's center is expected to be near the Texas coast by Tuesday afternoon.
Forecasters, however, caution that the storm is unpredictable and note the latest hurricane warning runs from High Island -- just east of Houston -- down to Padre Island's Baffin Bay.
A tropical storm warning -- a tipoff to winds up to 74 mph and high tides -- extends from High Island to Cameron, La.
This morning, it looked as if we might dodge this bullet. Now, we're not nearly so confident. Claudette, which was supposed to make a left-hand turn and roll right over the top of Brownsville and South Padre Island, appears to be having trouble making up her mind. City officials in Galveston issued a voluntary evacuation order this morning, and Seabrook followed suit later today. We just got the call about 45 minutes ago. Seabrook is, after all, right on the Gulf Coast, so a storm surge is no small concern. We're about 3/4 of a mile from the waterfront, so we'll likely be OK, especially with a lake in our backyard. A good part of the city might not be so lucky, however.
And so we wait. The winds have picked up noticeably, although it is still partly cloudy here in Seabrook. Twenty miles or so to the south in Galveston, there have already been reports of beach erosion, tides two feet above normal, and waterspouts. There are a lot of things that could happen, and while not many of them are good, there isn't much else we can do but hope for the best. By this time tomorrow night, things just might look very, very different. Stay tuned, y'all....