Texas is facing a “very major disaster” as Hurricane Harvey approaches its coastline, the state’s governor says.
It is now a category four storm as it powers across the Gulf of Mexico. It was due to make landfall on Texas’ central coast very late on Friday.
Greg Abbott has asked for more federal aid to cope with the storm, which may be the worst to hit the US in 12 years.
The National Hurricane Center said storm surges may bring life-threatening floods in and around Houston.
At 18:00 (23:00 GMT), the storm was 45 miles (70 km) east of Corpus Christi, with maximum sustained winds of 130mph (215 km/h), the NHC said.
The storm may bring 40in (102cm) of rain and 12ft (3.5m) storm surges, say forecasters.
Mr Abbott said Harvey was now “turning into a very complex and dangerous hurricane”. It is likely to strike at the heart of Texas’s oil refining industry, with Corpus Christi, a port city of 320,000 people, in the path of the storm.
In a letter to President Donald Trump requesting federal aid, Mr Abbott said: “The storm surge, coupled with the deluge of rain, could easily lead to billions of dollars of property damage and almost certainly loss of life.”
The White House said Mr Trump is likely to visit Texas early next week.
The National Weather Service said on Friday it expected Harvey to make landfall as a category three hurricane, out of a maximum of five. Storms usually lose force when they reach land.
If it does, it will be the strongest storm to hit the US since October 2005, when Hurricane Wilma struck the coast of Florida.
Wilma left 87 people dead, and was part of a record-breaking hurricane season that included Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and killed nearly 2,000 people in August of that year.
However, Mr Abbott warned it could even make landfall as a category four. The last category four storm to hit the US was Charley in August 2004. (Courtesy BBC)