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PORT LAVACA - Crossroads residents watched helplessly Friday as the worst storm in 56 years roared ashore.
Harvey grew to a Category 4 hurricane at 6 p.m., drawing terrifying comparisons to Carla, which blasted through Port O’Connor on Sept. 11, 1961.
Harvey was expected to cause devastating damage as the storm started stalling after making landfall. Heavy rains could continue through Monday afternoon, dumping 20 to 40 inches.
“What that means is we’re going to be in the middle of the bad side of the storm for roughly 48 hours,” said Deputy Bryan Simons, Victoria County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
The Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers, along with all tributaries, are expected to flood, Victoria County officials said during a 5:30 p.m. update. Landfall was reached about 10 p.m. at San Jose Island four miles east of Rockport, where the storm surge would be 8 to 12 feet.
After making landfall, Harvey was expected to pass through Refugio and Goliad counties and then circle back, continuing to dump water across the Crossroads.
“It’s going to be long and drawn-out,” Port Lavaca Police Chief Colin Rangnow said Friday afternoon. “Then, after that, what is the city going to look like?”
Crossroads officials feared too many residents ignored mandatory evacuation orders in Victoria, Calhoun, Jackson and Refugio counties. Ganado Mayor Clinton Tegeler estimated more than 15 percent of his town’s residents had evacuated.
For those who stayed, the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office warned: “If you get out in it, you’re going to die.”
Earlier Friday, Rangnow surveyed Port Lavaca, taking the names of residents who decided to stay. He gathered the names and addresses of next of kin for about 50-60 people who stayed as Harvey barreled toward the coast.
“So we can identify the bodies,” the chief said.
Calhoun and Jackson counties bused some residents early Friday to shelters in New Braunfels, San Antonio and Austin.
Victoria officials opened two dome shelters -- one at St. Joseph High School and another at Bloomington Elementary School.
Latroya Sonaiya took refuge at the Bloomington shelter with her family.
“Wait it out. That is all we can do,” she said. “Prayers protect us.”
As of 4:15 p.m., both emergency shelters were full and at capacity, according to the city of Victoria’s Twitter page.
As many as 1.24 million Texans could lose power in the storm, according to a Texas A&M estimate. No major power outages were reported in Victoria as of 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Chief Rangnow found people in good humor Friday afternoon even as officials’ warnings increased in intensity.
One family talked, drank and laughed underneath a porch as Hurricane Harvey’s rain bands reached the shore.
When asked why they were staying, Jerry “Hippie” Huggans said jokingly, “Because I still have a bottle of Crown Royal left!”
Jason January said their home, which is near Bayfront Peninsula Park, is fortified with cement and rebar drilled 6 feet into the ground. They also have 100 gallons of drinking water and a boat.
He said he’s always wanted to boat down SH 35 and promised Rangnow he’d stop the boat at red lights.
Sylvia January said she’s fled a hurricane only once.
“A bunch of us girls went to Dollar Tree yesterday and said, ‘Hey, if it’s our time to go, it’s God’s will, you know? We can’t control life. We can’t control God. We can’t control anybody.’”
Rangnow also had to stop residents from driving too close to the water, which is expected to surge between 6 and 12 feet.
Ronnie Hamrick was forced to turn around, for example. A member of the San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper, Hamrick had been collecting pellets along the coast of Lavaca Bay to document what he says is pollution coming from Formosa, a nearby petrochemical plant.
Eighteen officers, six dispatchers and their pets were weathering the storm together at City Hall, 201 N. Colorado St., where they have generators.
The electricity and water were expected to go out.
Rangnow said officers would not be able to respond to calls when the winds reach between 40 or 55 mph.
Goliad County did not have a mandatory evacuation order in place, so most residents were weathering Harvey from their own homes, County Judge Pat Calhoun said.
“I personally feel like if I was in danger, they’d have come by and asked me to go,” Goliad County resident Joseph Eatherton, 51, said.
Friday afternoon, Eatherton planned to weather the storm with his dogs and 62-year-old brother, who is blind, inside their Fannin mobile home. Despite increasing rain and winds, Eatherton said he based his decision on a lack of perceived danger, although his broken vehicle was another reason for staying.
With the blockbuster disaster film “2012,” playing on a television, Eatherton relaxed Friday, paying little heed to the winds that buffeted his mobile home.
“We got videos, vodka, Marlboros, each other, dogs and God,” he said.
Calhoun said residents would be safest at home, although emergency services officials would not be able to respond to requests for help once winds reach 45 mph.
“It’s better for me to tell everyone, ‘Go home. Get your stuff straightened out. Get it all squared away,’ and then when the wind quits, when things slow down, at that point we will start getting out and trying to do preliminary damage assessments,” Calhoun said.
The county has disbanded its Office of Emergency Management, partly because of limited resources, he said. And officials have not designated shelters for displaced county residents.
“There’s no point in us manning an (Office of Emergency Management) and sitting there for 24 or 36 hours, twiddling our thumbs,” he said.
The county judge, a Goliad County native who has experienced his fair share of tropical storms, said he thinks county residents will be fine as long as they hunker down and stay inside when winds become dangerous.
“Just ride it out,” he said.
After all, heavy rains will probably shut down highways and other means of travel for up to a week, he said.
“Goliad is going to get cut off,” he said. “It will be an island.”
Advocate reporter Kathryn Cargo contributed to this story.