Harvey downgraded to a tropical storm, expected to continue to spawn heavy rain for days

Rockport appears to be the hardest hit area of Hurricane Harvey's eye in Texas. The following photo from Stormchaser Jeff Piotrowski who is on the ground.

The most powerful hurricane to hit the United States in a decade has been downgraded to a tropical storm, with sustained winds of 70 mph, the National Weather Service said early Saturday afternoon.

The storm is expected to continue to spawn heavy rain for days, with the potential for catastrophic flooding across southeast Texas.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast late Friday and was downgraded to Category 1 by mid-Saturday.

More than 200,000 homes sit in the hurricane’s path, according to analytics firm CoreLogic’s estimate on Friday.

Rebuilding those homes after the storm could cost up to $40 billion, the firm estimates.

With dire warnings of tornadoes, torrential downpours and days of flooding to come, broad swaths of southeast Texas were littered with uprooted trees, toppled signs, flagpoles that snapped like toothpicks and clusters of bricks peeled like scabs from walls and rooftops.

Fatalities were feared in coastal Rockport, Texas, where an estimated 5,000 residents had stayed put for the storm, which blasted ashore as a Category 4 around 11 p.m. ET Friday, between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Aransas County Sheriff Bill Mills said.

Callers to the local emergency dispatch line told of walls and roofs collapsing on people across the city, where an official had warned those who opted to stick out the storm to write their Social Security numbers on their arms for body identification.

“There’s been widespread devastation,” Rockport Mayor Charles Wax told CNN late Saturday morning. No deaths had been confirmed, he said, noting that emergency workers were just beginning to go house to house to check on residents and assess damage.