The end of San Agustin and San Bernardo streets in Rio Grande City had become rivers, their quick currents carrying debris past cars parked along the residential streets.
On the north end of the street, the river had already passed through by midday Tuesday, but San Juanita Cardona was still sweeping the water out of her house following a heavy overnight storm.
A torrential downpour brought on by an overnight thunderstorm kept 48-year-old Cardona up all evening Monday, but there was little she could do except look out to see how high the water would rise this time. Inside her home, that turned out to be about 10 to 12 inches.
Around the city, the rain amounted to less than that, about 6 to 7 inches, and no water rescues were required.
However, six families throughout Starr County evacuated their homes and for Cardona, flooding in her house had become an almost annual event over the 10 years she’s lived in El Chaparral, a neighborhood in Rio Grande City.
It was clear, though, the regularity made it no less frustrating to her.
As employees from Starr County Precinct 3 pumped water out from a bedroom near the back of the house, Cardona pointed out the stains on the walls that marked how high the water had reached and similar markings on her couches.
Outside, two parked vehicles sat exposed with all four doors flung open to reveal puddles of water on the floors.
The Precinct 3 workers arrived following multiple phone calls for assistance, according to Cardona, who added that the experience was disappointing as well as frustrating.
“Nobody helps us, nobody pays attention to us,” she said.
But the county has tried to fix that neighborhood’s flooding problems for years, according to Starr County Judge Eloy Vera, who said that external factors have prevented the construction of drainage infrastructure there.
One of them is that adjacent to the subdivision lies property owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which, Vera said, is strict about what the county can do on their property.
“They do not allow us to build any type of drain ditch for outfall so we’ve been having issues with that,” he said, adding that another factor is that the owner of another area, south of the subdivision, is also concerned about having all the water on his land.
“But he does allow us to pump the water onto that property so it can flow in a controlled manner all the way down to the river,” Vera said. “So that’s what we’ve been doing.”
In response to Monday night’s rain, Vera said county workers were pumping water out of homes, like Cardona’s, that had been inundated with water and were repairing a couple of streets that sustained damage.
The Rio Grande City fire department had also been coordinating with the Texas Department of Transportation since about 3 a.m. Tuesday to monitor U.S. Highway 83, according to Rio Grande City spokesperson Ashly Custer.
The city’s planning department worked on identifying problematic areas where water was still standing to determine if any drains had clogged up, while the public utilities department worked on ensuring the water and sewer plants were operational.
Additionally, crews with the city’s public works were clearing debris from the streets.
Casa de Esperanza, a shelter in the city, was activated to take in displaced families and the city began distributing sandbags Tuesday afternoon in preparation for more rain expected later in the week.
For Cardona and her family, the resources available to repair the damage that’s already been done to her home are scarce.
She said she can’t buy flood insurance because insurers won’t cover a home that is certain to flood and though her home is insured for natural disasters, that doesn’t cover flood damage.
“We’ve had six or seven floods and we’re always left struggling,” she said.
The water levels vary every time, she said, but this time has been among the worst in the last few years and has led her to seriously consider selling the home she shares with her husband and their three children.
“It’s a problem, one can’t be comfortable. It rains a little and you fear this will happen,” she said referring to the flooding.
“It was four hours of rain,” Cardona added, remarking on the large amount of damage done in just a short span of time.
“There’s a forecast of rain for tomorrow and a forecast of rain for the next day, and the next and the next,” she said, “where the hell is this water going to go?”