Hurricane Claudette Soaking Texas

PORT LAVACA, Texas -- Hurricane Claudette's 75-mph winds pounded away at the Texas coast Tuesday morning as the storm's furious eyewall reached the shore between Port O'Connor and Palacios.

The eye of the Atlantic season's first hurricane is expected to make landfall Tuesday, according to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. At 9 a.m. EDT, the center of the storm was about 45 miles east of Port O'Connor, moving west-northwest at 11 mph.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Baffin Bay, Texas, south of Corpus Christi, on north to High Island, east of Galveston. A tropical storm warning extended from High Island to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, and a hurricane watch was in effect for the rest of the Texas shoreline south of Baffin Bay.

Claudette is a Category 1 hurricane, defined as having maximum sustained wind speeds between 74 and 95 mph.

With hurricane and tropical storm force winds extending far from the center, "most of that Texas coast is going to feel the impact" of Claudette's winds and water, said National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield.

The worst of the storm, Mayfield said, will be "near and just to the north of where it hits on shore there."

"We're really concerned with the Matagorda Peninsula and with the city of Matagorda itself," he said, referring to the southeast Texas town midway between Port O'Connor and Freeport.

The last hurricane to hit Matagorda directly was Fern, a Category 1 storm that came ashore in 1971.

In the Galveston area, northeast of the expected landfall, 15-foot waves and off-shore waterspouts were reported, but forecasters said the worst was nearly over for that area.

"It got a little hairy overnight, but it didn't get as bad as we expected," Galveston Mayor Roger Quiroga said. "It should be getting better as the time goes by."

Quiroga said beach erosion was the area's biggest concern. Galveston Island, he said, loses about 10 feet of beach a year without hurricane force winds and rain.

Tornado watches and flash flood and flood warnings were in effect across the area affected by the hurricane and tropical storm advisories.

The National Hurricane Center warned of storm surge flooding of 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels, accompanied by large battering waves in the warning area. Rainfall totals of 5 to 8 inches are possible with Claudette, forecasters said.

Drifting aimlessly in the central Gulf of Mexico after dumping heavy rain on vacation spots in the Caribbean and on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Claudette loomed all weekend.

Throughout Monday, increasing signs of the storm were prevalent in Texas. Waves as high as 12 feet were reported on the central and north coasts, even while the storm was as far as 250 miles from shore.