Texas Border Business
As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition July 2018
June 2018 – The Rio Grande Valley was hit by an unprecedented, non-hurricane related flood event that produced 15 to 18 inches of rain in certain areas. The rains began on Tuesday, June 19 and continued until Thursday, June 21. The amount of rainfall that impacted Hidalgo County was unexpected and produced major danger for its residents.
Despite many services being postponed or canceled because of the flooding, the people from Hidalgo County are helping each other to recover from this disaster.
This event brought cities, the counties, and other agencies like school districts, churches, non-profit organizations, and businesses together to help those in need. All groups and agencies worked together to reach their only goal: the safety of the Valley’s residents.
Precinct 1 Commissioner David L. Fuentes provided a comprehensive update of the county, and the unprecedented, non-hurricane, torrential rain that caused major flooding in eastern and western Hidalgo County.
“We received in about a day and a half, almost the same amount of rain as was produced during Hurricane Beulah,” Fuentes said. “Our drainage system worked but was simply overwhelmed by the downpour on Wednesday and then by the downpour and water runoff in western Hidalgo County Thursday.”
County Judge Ramon Garcia issued a state of emergency declaration for Hidalgo County Wednesday morning. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared State of Disaster for Hidalgo, Cameron, Aransas, Nueces, San Patricio, and Willacy counties.
In the declaration, Abbott certified that the severe weather and flooding event that began on June 19 and that continued until June 21, caused widespread and severe property damage and threatened loss of life.
“Therefore, in accordance with the authority vested in me by Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code, I do hereby declare a state of disaster in the previously listed counties,” the declaration reads. “Pursuant to Section 418.017 of the code, I authorize the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with this disaster.”
Most of South Texas was considered to be in a moderate to severe drought with some areas in an extreme drought before these heavy rains fell. Flooding occurred due to the intense rainfall rates; streets were flooded, many with several feet of water.
People were rescued by first respondents from flooded homes and vehicles. The unexpected high waters throughout the mid-valley cities left many cars stalled on the flooded streets. Vehicles laid abandoned, surrounded by water.
After Rescue Comes Recovery
The water height varied throughout the area, flooding from 15 inches to some feet of water were recorded; several streets and neighborhoods were damaged, and people needed to be evacuated to higher areas.
As the days pass, Rio Grande Valley cities like Mission and Harlingen are encouraging its residents to report the damages the rain and flooding caused to their homes as soon as possible.
The City of McAllen has also provided ways to facilitate the recovery process such as having trash bins for debris removal and improving the procedure to obtain a permit for repairs.
“We know that the flood caused damages to homes and homeowners want to get started quickly on getting their homes and lives back to normal,” said McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez, P.E. “By waiving the permit requirements for repairs caused by the flood waters, this will be one less stress and time delay that they will have to deal with.”
Disastrous Flooding Throughout the Rio Grande Valley
The city of Edinburg was also flooded. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley decided to cancel classes on Thursday after the Edinburg campus flooded. Many apartment complexes, homes, and businesses were closed due to the heavy rain and flooding.
Residents of McAllen had to avoid traveling due to several flooded streets in the city. Several roadways in the city were closed during the non-hurricane related rain and flood event that took place from June 19 to June 21.
Mayor Jim Darling declared a local state of emergency in the City of McAllen due to the extremely heavy rainfall that caused local flooding.
City of Mission’s Mayor Armando O’Caña said officials performed more than 200 water rescues amid flooding from heavy rainfall. The rain started early Thursday morning, while other cities had experienced rain since Wednesday.
Residents of Palmview were instructed to evacuate the area due to water overflow at the Mission drainage canal. A press release issued by Mayor Gerardo Perez instructed those on FM 495 between Bentsen Palm and Minnesota roads to vacate as soon as possible. It stated the rainfall created hidden sinkholes along Veterans Boulevard posing a threat to others.
Residents from the City of Pharr were surprised with knee-high flooding starting Wednesday morning. The city’s drainage ditches reached capacity, but Pharr Public Works had water pumps on principal roadways like Sugar and Polk and off Veterans Blvd. and Bicker Rd.
Several cities in Starr County have witnessed major flooding, including Roma. Starr County Judge Eloy Vera says authorities had to pump water that had made its way downhill east of Roma along Efren Ramirez Avenue.
Human Force made the Difference
Weslaco’s streets flooded, and many neighborhoods were damaged by the amount of rain that caused the rising water. Volunteers moved stranded residents to shelters, some volunteers used rafts to transport people from their flooded streets to higher ground.
Residents of Mercedes received an unprecedented rainfall; about 5 inches of rain was forecast but flood flash warnings came after torrential rain flooded streets and expressways. Residents fled their homes and vehicles through waters that in some places were shoulder-deep.