CPT Morgan Montalvo, HQ, TXSG
LOWER RIO GRAND VALLEY - As floodwaters receded and power was restored, a small number of South Texas residents displaced by Hurricane Alex left the safety of shelters to find their homes damaged by rain, wind and debris. Of an estimated 850 evacuees who sought refuge inland, those unfortunate few resigned themselves to another night as guests of emergency management and social service agencies.
The prospect of residual rainfall from a weakening now-Tropical Storm Alex, or the possible release of water from Mexican reservoirs, had authorities bracing for other evacuees to return.
“Right now it’s a handful, but it’s hard to track,” said Jim Todd, an American Red Cross disaster supervisor.
Meanwhile,” Mr. Todd says, “the Red Cross is taking over responsibility for shelters from the Texas State Guard, which was mobilized earlier this week to assist with hurricane response.”
State Guard and Red Cross personnel were working to consolidate shelters and evacuees while preparing for more, should weekend rainfall again leave parts of South Texas underwater.
Emergency service agencies had one eye on the skies and the other on the release gates of several Mexican border reservoirs that retain water for agricultural use.
The National Hurricane Center said an additional six inches of rain could fall on the South Texas-Northeast Mexico region through the weekend, prompting flash-flooding; other meteorological models place the heaviest post-Alex rainfall between Houston and Corpus Christi.
More than 750 members of the Texas State Guard were called to duty beginning June 28 to staff shelters in support of state and local authorities as a strengthening Tropical Storm Alex meandered toward South Texas and northeast Mexico.
Alex was upgraded to hurricane status Wednesday.
State Guard personnel remain on duty at most of the 17 shelters ordered to open by state and local governments between Raymondville and Brownsville 2 July.
Many evacuees traveled nearly 100 miles to seek safety, while others “came from blocks away,” said COL Ray Peters, commander of the Denton-based 3rd Bn, 4th Regt. COL Peters’ unit staffed a shelter in Alton, about 80 miles from the coast.
“They came from an economically depressed neighborhood,” Peters said of the 104 people who fled to his shelter at Alton Memorial Middle School. Unlike their neighbors to the southeast, “They weren’t worried about the hurricane; they were worried about the rain.”
COL Peters said that an estimated 6-8 inches of rain fell on the Alton area beginning Wednesday. His unit spent Friday preparing their shelter for handoff to the Red Cross. Alton Memorial Middle School was the northeastern-most facility managed by the State Guard.
Most State Guard units were expected to be released from shelter duty before week’s end, unless renewed flooding leads to their extended deployment.
Hurricane Alex made landfall Wednesday along a lightly populated portion of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, about 110 miles south of Brownsville. The Category 2 storm generated peak winds of 110 mph and spawned at least two tornadoes but, apart from dumping from 6-12 inches of rain over parts of South Texas, spared the U.S. side of the border from serious damage.