McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Hurricane Hanna, with winds of 90 mph, cut a swath through South Texas overnight, knocking out power, flooding roads and damaging structures in this border region that is already reeling from unprecedented COVID-19 deaths and a lack of resources to treat cases.
The Category 1 hurricane made landfall around 5 p.m. Saturday in North Padre Island and then began a slow southward slog through South Texas. It hit the McAllen region hard around 2 a.m. and there was a brief lull in the winds and rain from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Then shortly before noon the heavy winds and rains picked up again adding to inches of water already soaking the region.
The system was downgraded to a tropical storm by early afternoon and winds decreased by half to around 45 mph by mid-morning, but the waters continued to rise as canals began to overflow and the Rio Grande surged. By Sunday evening, the storm was downgraded to a tropical depression.
A Tornado Warning was issued for Hidalgo County on Sunday morning. The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning until 10 p.m. “This is a dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order,” the alert read.
Roads were blocked early Sunday and residents were told not to leave their homes except to evacuate as rising waters rose to home fronts. Cars on streets were seen submerged and street signs toppled from the bands of wind and sheets of rain that pummeled the area for hour after hour.
Winds howled throughout the night, breaking windows on homes, sending palm tree fronds sailing like missiles, and even relocated a bent trampoline from one neighborhood to another in North McAllen, about 65 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Guard was assisting rescue missions in the town of Mission and helicopter crews sent by Gov. Greg Abbott were giving air support. Abbott on Saturday issued a disaster declaration for 32 Texas counties, but stressed that the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is most at risk because of a surge of coronavirus cases and deaths that are already taxing the region, especially Hidalgo County.
Rainfalls are predicted from 6 to 15 inches in the Rio Grande Valley, a flat, flood-prone low-lying region that borders northern Mexico.
Residents were reporting calls to 911 and 311 going unanswered as emergency crews were overwhelmed and most communication and cellphone service out in the region. Some residents took to closing their own streets by hauling tree branches and orange street cones to block drivers from coming through and creating wakes that were driving water into the front of homes.
The Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg and all county offices have been preemptively closed Monday because of flooding and power outages.