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Hurricane Harvey has become a Category 3 storm as it approaches Texas. Travelers near the storm's path this weekend should assess costs and strategies for changing their plans.
The latest advisories from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center predict that Harvey will make landfall on the middle Texas coast by late Friday or early Saturday and then "meander near or just inland of the middle Texas coast through the weekend." Forecasters warned that rainfall from Harvey is expected to trigger "life-threatening storm surges" and "catastrophic and life-threatening flooding."
The agency issued tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings for areas of Texas and Mexico, as well as storm surge watches and warnings. It also advised consumers already in or bound for southwestern Louisiana to monitor the progress of the storm.
(NOAA recently raised its tropical storm and hurricane forecast for this year, predicting an "extremely active season." They expect 14 to 19 named storms, including 5 to 9 hurricanes and 2 to 5 major hurricanes. Harvey is the eighth named storm of the season.)
In anticipation of Harvey's landfall, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster Wednesday for 30 counties and ordered state resources to be made available for rescue and recovery. Thursday evening, he posted a video message to Twitter, urging consumers to "take all necessary precautions to save your life and minimize risk."
"I strongly urge all Texans to heed warnings from your local officials, and I also urge that you immediately follow evacuation orders for all impacted counties," he said .
Travelers whose plans take them to, from or through an area in the path of the storm should start checking to see how easily and cheaply they can shift plans. (See tips below.)
Major airlines — including American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United — have issued travel advisories for the affected areas and are waiving change fees for travelers to reschedule flights. By midday Friday, according to FlightAware.com, airlines had canceled more than 150 flights due to Hurricane Harvey, and preemptively canceled more than 180 for Saturday.
Now that Harvey is a named storm, it's too late to pick up travel insurance for your trip. If you already have a policy in place, check to see if its protections have kicked in (depending on your coverage, they may not have yet).