Preparedness & Recovery

Assessing Aftermath of the Texas Storms

They are preparing to combat an expected explosion of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

by Mark Reagan, The Brownsville Herald, Texas / June 26, 2018
Stalled vehicles are towed in high water on Texas Boulevard after heavy rains caused water to rise and flood whole neighborhoods. AP/Joel Martinez

(TNS) — Officials are still assessing the damage after a tropical system dumped a year’s worth of rain on the Rio Grande Valley in a two-day period last week.

They are preparing to combat an expected explosion of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Cameron County Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Hushen said yesterday morning that areas of the county were still under water.

He said the county was conducting pumping operations in areas near Los Fresnos and Santa Rosa.

“We know we have at least 100 homes destroyed,” Hushen said, explaining that these homes had water that was more than four feet deep inside of them.

“And we’re probably going to have 400 to 500 that are damaged.”

However, the full cost of the flash floods hasn’t been determined. Hushen said the state of Texas and the Red Cross have sent damage assessment teams into Cameron County.

And flood water still remains a challenge for county officials, who, on Monday, were still unable to reach some places.

“It’s going to take a little time because there are some areas that we can’t get in because the water is too high,” Hushen said.

During the height of the flooding, which occurred on Wednesday and Thursday, Hushen said emergency responders conducted approximately 100 rescues.

By last Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for six South Texas counties, including Cameron.

The National Weather Service estimated the Rio Grande Valley experienced $100 million in damage from last week’s flooding, The Monitor reported.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat whose district includes McAllen, sent a letter last Friday to President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator William B. Long asking for financial support to residents in the Rio Grande Valley and the Coastal Bend region by declaring a federal disaster area.

“This deluge has affected the Rio Grande Valley, located in South Texas, and spans several Congressional Districts. Water levels have been recorded as high as seven feet in some areas,” Gonzalez wrote in the letters. “This weather event caused serious devastation, including damages to public property, homes, businesses, roads, streets and loss of property. The level of property damage, and danger to life and limb warranted a declaration of disaster from Texas Governor Greg Abbott.”

As of yesterday afternoon, FEMA had not announced whether it would designate the region as a federal disaster zone.

During the weekend, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said in a press release that Cameron County Emergency Management has been receiving phone calls asking about the cleaning process and when it should begin, as well as how to initiate efforts to receive federal assistance if a federal disaster is declared.

Treviño advised residents to take pictures of any and all damage to residences, inside and out, including any structures that are on the property. He told residents they should document all the dates and times of photographs and to not start cleaning up until all the photos and documentation are in place. Treviño also recommends saving copies of receipts for expenses relating to the clean-up effort.

“My prayers are with all of the families that have suffered any damage from these torrential rains,” Treviño said. “We are doing everything in our power to help eliminate the water that is still standing. We are coordinating efforts to help our county receive assistance for those residents that have suffered loss. We ask for your patience, and may God bless our people of the Rio Grande Valley and Cameron County.”

County officials, as well as the city of Brownsville, are also beginning to ramp up mosquito reduction efforts.

Last week, Hushen said his office was meeting with city officials throughout Cameron County to discuss efforts and mosquito reduction along with plans for spraying.

The city of Brownsville initiated larvicide distribution aimed at reducing mosquito development on Friday and Saturday while crews with the Public Health and Wellness Department’s Vector Control Division have been conducting mosquito surveillance efforts to guard against Zika, Dengue, West Nile and other diseases spread by mosquitoes.

“We encourage residents to take precautionary measures by removing standing water where mosquitoes could lay eggs, cutting tall grass and communicating their concerns via our helpline 546-HELP,” Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez said in a press release.

Weather permitting, the city will be spraying for mosquitoes from dusk through the late night each day this week.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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