Border towns bail out as rio Grande surges
cities keep an eye on river that has gone from quiet to roaring
RIO GRANDE CITY — Upstream communities began to assess the damage Friday wrought by a Rio Grande that jumped its banks in Laredo, while people downriver marveled warily at a river that bore little resemblance to the lazy waterway that usually divides border cities.
The Rio Grande continued rising in the city that bears its name — to more than 3 feet above flood stage, according to the National Weather Service. The river was expected to rise an additional 2 feet to more than 55 feet.
Longtime residents said they had not seen the river reach these heights since Hurricane Beulah in 1967. The difference so far is that the area mercifully received little rain from the tropical depression that came ashore Thursday near the mouth of the Rio Grande.
City Manager Juan Zuniga hoped that the lack of rain would stave off any threat of serious flooding.
“If we get any substantial rain, that will cause problems for us,” Zuniga said. His more pressing concern was how much water would be released from the Falcon Dam upstream.
The International Boundary and Water Com- mission more than doubled the amount of water passing through Falcon on Thursday, and Zuniga waited to hear whether it would be increased again. The commission was analyzing data and had not decided to release more water at midday Friday.
The other factor was how much water would enter the Rio Grande from Mexico through the Rio San Juan. A Mexican reservoir not far from the border across from Rio Grande City has a spillway that does not allow authorities to control how much water leaves after it tops the barrier.
Jose Lopez, 80, lives next to a creek that nor-
Continued from B mally feeds the Rio Grande.
Water has been backing up in the creek during the last two days, and Lopez was readying his yard Friday.
He showed an eroded line about 3 feet up his house’s stucco wall, where he said floodwaters from Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 flowed past his house.
“Everything inside was lost, the stove, the beds,” Lopez said. This time Lopez said he would try to leave if it looked like the creek would flood again.
“But where am I going to go? My wife is ill. We don’t have other family here.”
The Rio Grande crested in downtown Laredo at more than 42 feet before dawn Fri- day. The water remained high and pushed against a bridge that remained closed, but officials did not anticipate any more evacuations.
Those who were evacuated Thursday were expected to be out of their homes for a couple more days.
“It still may be awhile before things are back to normal,” said city spokeswoman Xochitl Mora Garcia.
In Laredo, where about half of all U.S.-Mexico trade crosses the border, authorities on Friday reopened one of the international bridges on the northwestern edge of the city, but one downtown bridge remained closed, and a second was severely restricted.
The vehicle inspection sta- tion in Nuevo Laredo was under several feet of water.
In Central Texas, rains associated with the tropical depression were expected to diminish overnight, and more summerlike conditions are expected this weekend and next week, said Chris Morris, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.
Today is expected to be mostly sunny with highs in the low 90s and a slight chance of rain, Morris said. Humidity is expected to be high, he said.
On Friday, Central Texas received a quarter inch to more than an inch of rain, according to readings from the Lower Colorado River Authority. A resident tosses water Friday from his flooded home in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Authorities in Laredo reopened an international bridge Friday that had been closed because of flooding.
From left, Austin Flores, Max Sosa and Alex Valdez shovel mud from a neighbor’s driveway Friday in Laredo during cleanup efforts after the Rio Grande flooded their neighborhood. The river crested there at more than 42 feet early Friday, and one downtown bridge remained closed.