Hurricane Harvey strengthens to Category 2, on track to become a Category 3

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As heavy rain and gusty winds move in over Texas, coastal residents are deciding whether to flee their homes or to stay put and brace for a potentially life-threatening hurricane.

Hurricane Harvey will reach Texas on Friday, bringing as many as 35 inches of rainfall, destructive waves and flood waters that could reach heights of 6-12 feet above ground level along the state’s coast, the National Hurricane Center said.

Forecasters say Harvey is on track to become a Category 3 hurricane with winds of at least 111 mph by the time it hits the middle Texas coast later Friday or early Saturday.

After hitting Corpus Christi, the storm is expected to stall over the state, forecasters say.

*Track Hurricane Harvey here

Latest developments

— Harvey strengthened early Friday, becoming a Category 2 hurricane with winds up to 100 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

— Isolated tornadoes are possible across portions of the middle and upper Texas coast on Friday, the service said.

— Texas Governor Greg Abbott has requested 700 National Guard members to be activated.

— The Ports of Corpus Christi and Galveston are closed.

— Three Galveston-based cruise ships in the Gulf of Mexico diverted to safer water.

— A number of counties and cities along the coast have issued mandatory evacuations.

— Louisiana has declared a statewide emergency.

Evacuations

Dozens of city buses will continue taking families out of the hurricane’s path on Friday, after at least six counties on the Texas coast issued voluntary or mandatory evacuations.

“I’m shaking inside, but for them, I’m trying to be strong,” a Corpus Christi woman who was waiting with her two daughters to board a bus out of the city told CNN affiliate KRIS.

In Corpus Christi, the airport will remain open but all Friday flights have been canceled, officials said.

On Thursday, drivers sat bumper-to-bumper as highways that were backed up for miles with people trying leave the coastal region ahead of the storm.

Rose Yepez told CNN it took her twice as long as normal to drive from Corpus Christi to San Antonio. Yepez, who was traveling to the Texas Hill Country, said traffic was constantly slowing down and coming to a stop during the 140-mile drive.

Ten critically ill babies in Corpus Christi were taken to a hospital in North Texas ahead of the storm, the Cook Children’s Hospital in Forth Worth said in a statement.

In Port Aransas, grocery stores and a regional hospital closed after over 50% of residents left town Thursday, city officials said.

Workers at 39 offshore petroleum production platforms and an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico were also evacuated Thursday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.