ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Hurricane Harvey is now a Category 4 storm with winds gusting up to 120 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for 300 miles of the Texas coast. And even beyond that, officials say there could be deadly flooding. NPR's John Burnett is in Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico. Hi, John.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Robert.
SIEGEL: And the eye is close to coming ashore just north of you just up the coast. What are you seeing there?
BURNETT: Well, conditions have really deteriorated fast in the last few hours. I mean we're seeing gusts now - 70, 80 miles an hour. The wind is causing things to happen that remind me of some of the really big hurricanes I've covered over the years. For one, in this hotel we're in, we're on the 15th floor. And it's just swaying and creaking like a ship out on the sea. I filled the bathtub with water. It's sloshing back and forth now. We can hear explosions of electrical transformers out on the streets.
What you're hearing now is the rain pounding on the front of the hotel with the sound system outside the lobby. I'm looking out on Ocean Boulevard, and you see the tops of these palm trees being whipped around. The streets are covered with brown husks that flew off the trees. Out in the marina, the masts of the sailboats are rocking back and forth. There's nobody out now.
The mayor of Corpus Christi called for a voluntary evacuation, not a mandatory one, which would have meant they would have had to evacuate the hospitals and transport patients inland. But the whitecaps out on the bay are really tall now. And these big gusts are blowing them into sea spray. It's an impressive sight.
SIEGEL: And what have you heard today in Corpus Christi from those people who are still there? What do they say about the approaching storm?
BURNETT: Well, when I got in about midday, I talked to some folks who were still out. And it really interestingly depends on their age. This city of 200,000 hasn't seen a really bad hurricane since Hurricane Celia in 1970. And that was horrific. There were - 85 percent of all the structures in the city were damaged, fifteen deaths in Texas, a billion dollars in damages. And that was in 1970 dollars. So Celia was a Category 3. We're at a Category 4 now.
The residents who lived through Celia remember it, and they were very concerned about what they'd been hearing about Harvey. And so some of them took shelter. This is Arturo Martinez. He's 96 years old. He was checking into this hotel with his daughter Laura because their home had barely made it through Celia. And he's - he was very worried about what's going to happen tonight.
ARTURO MARTINEZ: We had some house damage, and it was kind of rough. The house was shaking and all that. And we don't know what can happen this time.
BURNETT: I also met a young man wandering the streets. He was soaking wet, looking for a hamburger. He's Dylan Clifton, 20 years old, lives at a downtown homeless shelter. And I asked him if he had ever experienced a major hurricane before.
DYLAN CLIFTON: This is my first one. So I've never ever been through a tropical storm or nothing, nothing. So this is going to be an experience for me.
BURNETT: Are you concerned, you worried?
CLIFTON: No, Sir. No, sir. I feel pretty confident we're going to make it through this. I don't see no reason why we shouldn't, God willing, you know?
SIEGEL: He says it's going to be an experience. According to the forecasters, what kind of experience is it going to be in Corpus Christi?
BURNETT: Well, I drove around the city about an hour ago. And it looked like more than half of it had already lost power. Though you could see folks inside with their candles. We still have power here in part of downtown. The National Weather Service has said they expect this part of the Gulf Coast to be out of power for days or weeks and for it to become uninhabitable. The U.S. Geological Survey says that the storm surge of 6 to 12 feet could change the landscape of the dunes down here.
SIEGEL: All right. That's NPR's John Burnett speaking to us from Corpus Christi on the Texas Gulf Coast. John, thanks, and stay safe.
BURNETT: It's a pleasure, Robert.
SIEGEL: And we hope all of you will stay with NPR news throughout the weekend for the latest on Hurricane Harvey. Tomorrow morning on Weekend Edition, we'll be hearing more from our correspondents in Texas and also from our reporters at our member stations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.