Hanna’s winds wreak damage, heavy rains spur little flooding

PORT MANSFIELD — Residents Monday continued to dig out of soggy wreckage after Hurricane Hanna tore into this tiny fishing village late Saturday afternoon, ripping off the roofs at least two homes while damaging more than 80 others.

“The locals say this one did 10 to 15 times the damage as there was with Dolly,” Port Director Ron Mills said, referring to Hurricane Dolly, a Category 2 hurricane that followed much of Hanna’s path in 2008.

At about 5 p.m. Saturday, Hanna was packing winds of about 90 mph when it barreled into Padre Island in Kenedy County, about 15 miles north of this fishing village off the Laguna Madre.

“At one house all the walls are still intact but the roof came off like one sheet,” Mills said, adding the storm also blew the roof off a mobile home.

On Monday, cell phone signals were still down, driving residents as far as San Perlita to make telephone calls, he said.

Across the Rio Grande Valley, the hurricane knocked out power to about 152,000 customers, Eladio Jaimez, spokesman with AEP Texas, said.

By 8 a.m. Monday, AEP Texas had restored power to about 92,000 homes, he said.

But about 57,000 customers remained without power Monday morning, Jaimez said.

Floods spare Harlingen

Across northern Cameron County and Willacy County, the storm’s winds, peaking at about 63 mph in Harlingen, damaged homes and downed power lines but wreaked little flooding in low-lying, flood-prone areas, officials said.

“I was up all night long. There’s no way I could sleep,” John Lane, a resident at the Adams Crossing subdivision in Harlingen, said at his home which flooded during June storms in 2018 and 2019.

“They built this in a bowl and I live right in the middle of it,” Lane, a former teacher and Navy veteran, said. “Water was coming up my walkway. Another four inches, I would have been flooded. I thank God. I think it was an act of God because it stopped raining in time.”

Up the street, neighbor Justin Alexander believes the city’s widening of a 13 th  street drainage ditch and development of two retention ponds helped hold back floodwaters.

“The water went up halfway up my lawn but the rain lightened up and it allowed the water to drain,” Alexander, a medical lab technician whose home was flooded during Hurricane Dolly and the June 2019 flood, said. “If we had two or three more inches, I probably would have had water in the house.”

Despite the city’s upgrades, Alexander called on officials to continue to improve the drainage system.

“The improvements they made kept it out of the house,” he said. “They listened to us. They did some improvements and I can tell the improvements worked. It made a difference. It’s a small step forward. But it’s a band aid. It’s not a permanent fix.”

By Monday morning, about 3,000 Harlingen area homes remained without power, Jaimez said.

Prepping averts San Benito flooding

In San Benito, residents reported little flooding and “minimal property damage” despite nearly 10 inches of rain, Assistant City Manager Fred Bell stated.

“Early last week in preparation of then Tropical Storm Hanna’s potential landfall in our area, the city manager directed the public works department to assess the city’s drainage system, which includes the underground storm drains and ground level ditches and canals,” Bell stated. “City crews worked diligently in clearing debris from the drainage system throughout the city.”

Meanwhile, officials handed out more than 6,000 sandbags.

“As Hanna passed through the area, city crews were dispatched … in order to safely and quickly respond to areas experiencing downed utility lines, trees, and rising water. Public works crews repeatedly cleared debris that flowed into storm drains and streets in order to reduce the risk of flooding. Additionally, as reports of downed power and utility lines came in, crews assisted in removing poles and other debris and set up barricades and stop signs as quickly as possible in order to alert those who were driving on the roads.”

“Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, the city received and diverted up to 9¾ inches of rain that fell in various parts of the city,” Bell stated. “No one in the city of San Benito reported any physical injuries as a result of Hurricane Hanna.”

Now, crews are working to remove debris while “assessing the drainage system throughout the city,” he stated.

But near San Benito, more than a foot of floodwater ran across Green Valley Farms, the sprawling low-lying colonia where residents brace for flooding at the sign of rain.

“There’s flooding in all the Green Valley area,” area rancher Jesse Garcia said.

Wind damage in Raymondville

In Raymondville, heavy winds wreaked roof damage and downed power lines but left little flooding, Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said in the low-lying city prone to flooding.

“There was some structural damage to some residences,” he said. “I saw roofs lying on the side of the road. We had a lot of broken trees but very little flooding.”

Gonzales credited crews who worked to clean drainage ditches earlier this month.

“City crews are doing their job keeping our drainage clear. We cleared out the drainage ditches,” he said. “Right now they’re working on cleaning debris off the streets.”

By about 7 p.m. Sunday, AEP had restored power after about a day-long outage, he said.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com