Hurricane Dolly slams South Texas, but levees hold
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Hurricane Dolly barreled into South Texas on Wednesday, lashing the coast with winds up to 100 mph and dumping heavy rain that threatened to flood low-lying areas but spared levees along the heavily populated Rio Grande Valley.
Authorities had feared the first hurricane to hit the U.S. since last September could produce up to 20 inches of rain in some areas, possibly breaching levees in the heavily populated Rio Grande Valley. But shortly before coming ashore, the Category 2 storm meandered 35 miles north of the border, veering away from the flood walls.
“The levees are holding up just fine,” said Johnny Cavazos, emergency coordinator for Cameron County. “There is no indication right now that they are going to crest.”
Although the system weakened after striking land on the resort area of South Padre Island, one official cautioned that the danger had not passed. “It’s still very early in the storm,” said Sally Spener, a spokeswoman with the International Boundary and Water Commission.
Small communities just north of Brownsville were taking the brunt of the storm, including low-lying colonias, small villages of immigrants who live without sewer and water service.
Most of the destruction was on the island, where the hurricane knocked out power to thousands of homes, ripped off roofs and smashed windows.
Roads and yards were strewn with toppled trees, fences, power poles and streetlights. Business signs rolled around the streets like tumbleweeds. The causeway linking the island to the mainland was closed.
In Mexico, soldiers made a last-minute attempt to rescue people at the mouth of the Rio Grande, using an inflatable raft to retrieve at least one family trapped in their home. Many people further inland refused to go to government shelters. “These are people who did not want to leave, and now they are in trouble,” said Leticia Montalvo, a spokeswoman for the town of Matamoros, just across the river from Brownsville. The roof of an apartment complex on South Padre Island partially collapsed, but residents said they didn’t believe anybody was injured.
“I thought it was just a big clap of thunder, (then) saw this stuff flying around and it’s the roof,” said Buck Dopp, who lives in a ground-floor apartment. A 17-year-old boy fell from a seventh-story balcony, injuring his head, breaking his hip and fracturing his leg. The boy was being treated at an island fire station.