Tens of thousands of residents were away from their homes Saturday, after Hurricane Harvey sent them fleeing the Gulf Coast.
All seven Texas counties on the coast from Corpus Christi to the western end of Galveston Island ordered mandatory evacuations from low-lying areas. Four counties ordered full evacuations and warned there was no guarantee of rescue for people staying behind.
The Texan residents were hoping to escape the wrath of an increasingly menacing storm slamming an area of Texas that includes oil refineries, chemical plants.
"We know that we’ve got millions of people who are going to feel the impact of this storm," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman and meteorologist for the National Hurricane Center. "We really pray that people are listening to their emergency managers and get out of harm’s way."
Rain was hitting dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city. Before the storm arrived, home and business owners raced to nail plywood over windows and fill sandbags.
In Houston, where mass evacuations can include changing major highways to a one-way vehicle flow, authorities left traffic patterns unchanged.
Just hours before the projected landfall, the governor and Houston leaders issued conflicting statements on evacuation.
After Abbott urged more people to flee, Houston authorities told people to remain in their homes and recommended no widespread evacuations.
In the coastal town of Rockport, mayor pro tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling KIII-TV those who chose to stay put "should make some type of preparation to mark their arm with a Sharpie pen," implying doing so would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.
Voluntary evacuations were urged for Corpus Christi and for the Bolivar Peninsula, a sand spit near Galveston where many homes were washed away by the storm surge of Hurricane Ike in 2008.