Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dolly, Pardon Us! Hurricane looms. Notes from McAllen.

Dolly was upgraded to a hurricane on at about 4 p.m. on Tues., July 22, 2008. Presently—at 9:35 a.m. the outer bands are already inland, but the real trouble hasn’t started yet in McAllen, Texas. Video from South Padre Island shows the wind is already an issue there.

The eye, unfortunately, is still several minutes away. What we thought was going to be a fast-moving storm has been instead incubating, sitting in the deep, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, gaining strength. It may yet turn into a Cat. 2 storm instead of the barely Cat. 1 hurricane predicted.

Most folks around here have sandbags out, but few have boarded up their windows, because the destructive wind speeds weren’t expected. If this thing churns out any tornadoes, which it likely will, this will all be a different story—never mind the flooding that will occur eventually.

Sadly, the construction of the "border wall" began this week in South Texas. The County of Hidalgo is actually in charge of construction, because the county has been begging the federal government for money to rebuild the levee system--like the one that failed in New Orleans in 2005--because this area, the Rio Grande Valley, is prone to flooding during hurricanes and tropical storms. The last time the levee broke was in 1967 during Hurricane Beulah. It was really destructive here.

The county decided to make a deal with the Department of Homeland Security to basically combine the construction of the border wall with the strengthening of the levee system, which is why Hidalgo County is in charge of the construction. The cost of the border wall; just in this area (22 miles): $113.9 million. The county does not expect the federal government to ante up; instead it’s expecting reimbursement next year. The Anzaldua's Dam was constructed in 1960 but that did not keep Hurricane Beulah from flooding the region.

The poorer people in Mexico are going to have it bad, even if the levees don't break. (Their levees are practically non-existent.)

As far as I know from local TV news, folks are drifting into area shelters, especially people who live in trailer parks. Unfortunately, the Valley has a history of placing people in school gymnasiums and cafeterias instead of in classrooms and hallways. Gyms and cafeterias are large spaces with too much roofing, which could collapse or fly away. Individual classrooms in schools--which are the go-to shelters in this region--are better suited for protection from the elements: more walls, less roof, more privacy.

God, help us.

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