By Phil McCausland, Daniel Arkin and Elizabeth Chuck
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Harvey strengthened to a major Category 4 hurricane Friday evening, roaring toward Texas in what was predicted to be the most powerful storm to hit the United States in more than a decade.
Thousands of residents had fled parts of coastal Texas and homeowners, businesses and government officials were scrambling ahead of what officials warned could be a life-threatening storm.
The National Weather Service said Harvey had the potential to batter the state with significant rain, 125-mph winds, 12-foot storm surges, and "catastrophic" flooding. President Donald Trump said on Twitter Friday night that he has signed a disaster proclamation.
Gov. Greg Abbott requested a presidential major disaster declaration, which would make federal funding available to assist the state with response costs, and he activated about 700 members of the state National Guard on Friday. Abbott pleaded with Texans to obey evacuation orders.
"If you are in low-lying areas, if you are in zones where evacuations have been in place, there may still be time for you to get out. If you don't get out, you could be in the area without power, without water, without necessities for at least a week, if not longer," Abbott said on MSNBC Friday.
Harvey, driven by the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters, was expected to make landfall as a major storm just east of Corpus Christi between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET Saturday.
Dozens of inches of rain and widespread flooding will likely be what makes Harvey historic, said NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins.
"It's hard to imagine just how horrific and destructive this amount of water will be. But it goes without saying that anyone who has decided to stay in a low-lying area is risking their lives," he said.
The last Category 3 storm to pummel the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma, which struck Florida in 2005. It killed six people and caused $20 billion in damage to the Sunshine State.
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A national security adviser said Trump had been briefed on the hurricane's progress and the preparations for its landing. Trump tweeted on Friday that he had spoken with Abbott and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and was "closely monitoring" the situation.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president "will try to make plans to go to Texas early next week."