Flooding continues in TX

The southernmost tip of Texas has been pummeled by heavy rain since mid-September, following a summer of above-average precipitation which followed eight years of serious drought.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BALTIMORE | October 15, 2003



"They would rather stay in a house filled with water to protect the little that they have."

—Charlie Montgomery


The southernmost tip of Texas has been pummeled by heavy rain since mid-September, following a summer of above-average precipitation which followed eight years of serious drought.

But this last week was particularly bad, as towns in Cameron, Hidalgo, Brooks, Willacy and Starr counties have been flooded because of heavy rain dumped atop total ground saturation, according to Charlie Montgomery, emergency management coordinator for Hidalgo County.

Damage has been heavy in Hidalgo County, Montgomery said. Already at least 200 homes in Hidalgo County have incurred serious damage, and another hundred minor damage.

The American Red Cross has set up one emergency shelter in the community of Alton, outside McAllen, and less than a dozen people were sleeping there, said John Combs, director of emergency services for the South Texas Chapter of the Red Cross.

"I'm surprised we don't have more people," Combs said. "We have a pretty good flood situation down here."

Montgomery, however, was not surprised by the low turnout at the shelter.

"Historically, the Hispanic community will not leave their homes for fear of looting," Montgomery said. "They would rather stay in a house filled with water to protect the little that they have."

In Starr County, Combs said, a shelter in Rio Grande City had a much higher turnout an average of 22 people were sleeping there. Between 30 and 50 homes incurred flood damage in that city, according to Combs.

The Salvation Army was providing food and cleanup kits to affected communities, such as Rio Grande City (in Starr County), La Joya, Mission, Penitas, Alton and McAllen (in Hidalgo County) and Encino (in Brooks County), said Ron Ward, a Salvation Army volunteer in Edinburg. Additional Salvation Army response was being coordinated out of a smaller Salvation Army chapter in Brownsville.

Response to the recent floods, however, has been heartbreaking for some faith-based disaster responders, said Sandra Rios, the youth minister at Our Lady of Angels Church in La Joya.

Rios said that the floods have damaged many of the same homes that her church has been rebuilding since they were hit by Hurricane Erica last spring. Now many of the same building are wrecked again, but now her church has little money left for reconstruction.

"This caught us at a time when we had depleted all our money to help them with the hurricane," she said. "We don't have any money right now, but we're going to play it on faith."

The recent flooding problems may not be over, said Jesse Haro, warning coordination meteorologist for the Brownsville office of the National Weather Service.

River flooding along the Rio Grande is likely to continue, he said, while acknowledging that almost all of the recent damage has been the result of flash flooding away from the Rio Grande.

But Haro said further flooding might occur in Cameron County if rains continued into Wednesday.


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