Dolly hits Texas and Mexico
The hurricane's leading edge floods fields and knocks out electricity to
thousands. » Now Category 2 storm
* Video of storm reaching Texas
* Experts revise '08 hurricane forecast
Dolly lashes Texas coast as Category 2 hurricane
MIAMI - Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say Hurricane
Dolly has strengthened to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds near
The storm center is about 30 miles east-northeast of Brownsville, Texas.
The eye will cross the coast near the Texas/Mexico border in a few hours. People
should stay inside during the relative calm of the eye because winds will soon
increase quite rapidly.
Dolly strengthened as its leading edge lashed the Gulf Coast near the
Texas-Mexico border with heavy rain and powerful winds.
The center of the Category 1 hurricane was expected to make landfall later
Wednesday and dump up to 15 inches of rain, threatening flooding that could
breach levees in the heavily populated Rio Grande valley.
At 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday, the storm's center was about 40 miles east of
Brownsville, moving northwest at about 8 mph.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the coast of Texas from Brownsville to
Corpus Christi and in Mexico from Rio San Fernando northward.
Utility company AEP Texas reported power outages to more than 9,200 customers in
The causeway linking South Padre Island to the mainland remained closed early
Dan Quandt, a spokesman for the town's emergency operations, said winds were
picking up to around 50 mph and were expected to increase later Wednesday
morning. He said there was a steady rain falling, but no reports of flooding. A
sign on a hotel blew off, but no one was injured and it did not pose a hazard,
National Weather Service radar indicated a tornado 18 miles northeast of the
Harlingen Valley Airport on Wednesday morning. A tornado watch was in effect for
several counties in the area until 10 a.m. CDT Wednesday.
Cities and counties in the Rio Grande valley were preparing Tuesday night as
officials feared heavy rains could cause massive flooding and levee breaks.
Texas officials urged residents to move away from the Rio Grande levees because
if Dolly continues to follow the same path as 1967's Hurricane Beulah, "the
levees are not going to hold that much water," said Cameron County Emergency
Management Coordinator Johnny Cavazos.
There was intermittent light rain late Tuesday in Brownsville, and Cavazos said
he expected outer bands to move over the area overnight. Charles Hoskins, deputy
emergency management officer for Cameron County, said there were nearly 2,000
people in six shelters in the county.
In Hidalgo County, a little bit farther inland, six shelters holding about 900
people were open, said Cari Lambrecht, a county spokeswoman. She said people
living in low-lying areas were encouraged to come to shelters.
"It's so much easier for them to go now instead of us having to pull them out
later," she said.
Late Tuesday, the causeway linking the mainland to South Padre Island was closed
as winds ramped up, Quandt said. He said no one would be allowed onto or off of
the island, with the causeway not likely to open again until Wednesday evening
at the earliest. He said winds were not predicted to reach speeds requiring
In Mexico, Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Hernandez said officials planned to evacuate
23,000 people to government shelters in Matamoros, Soto La Marina and San
People began trickling in Tuesday night to five shelters set up throughout the
border city of Matamoros. City officials said three other shelters were ready in
case they were needed.
Forecasters predicted Dolly would dump up to 15 inches of rain and bring coastal
storm surge flooding of 4 to 6 feet above normal high tide levels. Forecasters
said Dolly's eye should hit the coast around midday Wednesday.
The U.S. Census Bureau said that based on Dolly's projected path, about 1.5
million Texans could feel the storm's effects.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for areas adjacent to the hurricane zone,
and Gov. Rick Perry declared 14 south Texas counties disaster areas, allowing
state resources to be used to send equipment and emergency workers to areas in
the storm's path.
Mike Castillo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville,
said conditions were favorable for tornadoes Wednesday morning, especially in
deep south Texas and the adjacent coastal waters.
The storm, combined with levees that have deteriorated in the 41 years since
Beulah swept up the Rio Grande, pose a major flooding threat to low-lying
counties along the border. Beulah spawned more than 100 tornadoes across Texas
and dumped 36 inches of rain in some parts of south Texas, killing 58 people and
causing more than $1 billion damage.
"We could have a triple-decker problem here," Cavazos told a meeting of more
than 100 county and local officials Tuesday. "We believe that those (levees)
will be breached if it continues on the same track. So please stay away from
Around Brownsville, levees protect the historic downtown as well as preserved
buildings that were formerly part of Fort Brown on the University of Texas at
Brownsville campus. Outside the city, agricultural land dominates the banks of
the Rio Grande, but thousands of people live in low-lying colonias, often poor
subdivisions built without water and sewer utilities.
The International Boundary and Water Commission, which operates a series of
levees, dams and floodways in the lower Rio Grande Valley, put its personnel on
standby alert. If needed, the IBWC will begin patrolling the levees around the
clock looking for seepage and erosion, said spokeswoman Sally Spener.
The IBWC made significant improvements to the levee system after Beulah and its
studies showed that a 100-year flood in Cameron County would not top the levees,
Spener said. Levees upstream in Hidalgo County are in the midst of improvements,
but the river could spill over sections in a 100-year flood, a flood so big that
it has only a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year.
Much of the damage to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina was from levee
breaks instead of wind.
Lines grew Tuesday at centers giving out sandbags in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Navy began flying 104 of its aircraft out of Naval Air Station Corpus
Christi to bases inland. Other aircraft will be sheltered on base in hangars and
no evacuation was planned.
Maj. Jose Rivera of the Texas Army National Guard said troops were preparing at
armories in Houston, Austin and San Antonio, after Gov. Perry called up 1,200
Guard members to help.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement was evacuating its Port Isabel Detention
Center, said spokeswoman Nina Pruneda. Fewer than 1,000 people were being sent
to other detention centers in Texas.
In the Gulf of Mexico, Shell Oil evacuated workers from oil rigs, but said it
didn't expect production to be affected. It also secured wells and shut down
production in the Rio Grande Valley, where it primarily deals in natural gas.
Mexico's state-run oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, said it had evacuated 66
workers from an oil platform off the coast of the port city of Tampico. Pemex
said in a statement that it had readied a team and the resources needed in case
of damage to oil installations in the region.
Residents of northern Mexico were taking the impending storm in stride.
Blas Garica, a 62-year-old builder in Reynosa, was taping up his windows and
putting sandbags in front of his porch to prepare.
"I'm not afraid because we flood frequently around here," he said. "If my
house floods, we'll just run to the roof."