Hermine gives south Texas another tropical lashing

Hermine gives south Texas another tropical lashing

Published September 7, 2010

RAYMONDVILLE, Texas (AP) -- Tropical Storm Hermine gave a wet and windy punch to Texas on Tuesday but left only minor scrapes in the storm-weary Rio Grande Valley, which is proving resilient this hurricane season after taking a third tropical system on the chin.

Hermine lost steam after crossing into Texas with tropical storm strength. A peeled-back motel roof in the coastal farming town of Raymondville and scattered power outages were about the worst leftover from the gusty, drenching storm that came and went quickly after creeping up on Texas and Mexico in the warm Gulf waters over the long holiday weekend.

"I think we're lucky. It could've been worse," said Art Nelson, sizing up the hulking aluminum shed that collapsed on a farming plow at his John Deere store in Raymondville.

Mexico didn't get off as easy. Hermine knocked out power for several hours in Matamoros and damaged about 20 homes, whose inhabitants were among 3,500 people who evacuated to shelters.

About 1,000 families were still in shelters Tuesday morning. Authorities in Mexico said there were no reports of serious injuries or death, which was welcome news after 12 people in Mexico died in flooding caused by Hurricane Alex earlier this summer.

Texas also had no reports of serious injuries, and evacuations orders weren't necessary even in the most low-lying regions. It was another sigh of relief for the flood-prone Rio Grande Valley, which got lashed by Alex at the start of the summer and soaked by another tropical system in July.

So damp is the area that only last week did Hidalgo County finally put away its last water-pumping machine. But much of the 5 inches to a foot of rain from Hermine fell harmlessly in the Gulf, and flooding was limited to only minor nuisances.

The storm made landfall early Tuesday in northeastern Mexico with winds of up to 65 mph (100 kph), arriving near the same spot as Alex. But Hermine was expected to cover more of the U.S. than Alex, which swiped Texas in June as a Category 1 storm before plunging southwest and breaking up over Mexico.

Forecasters expect Hermine's remnants to spread as far north as Oklahoma and Kansas. Flash flood advisories remained in effect for counties in path of the slowly dissolving storm.

"This is going to be much more of a memorable storm than Alex," National Weather Service meteorologist Joseph Tomaselli said.

The Coast Guard reported it received multiple reports of vessels in distress late Monday and early Tuesday. Monday evening's incoming tide freed a fishing boat that had run aground in the Brownsville Ship Channel near Port Isabel, but Coast Guard crews and other officials had to rescue 17 crew members and a dog from three other fishing vessels that got stuck near the South Padre Island beach. All were treated for minor injuries, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

In Mexico, authorities had released water from some dams to make room for rain. It added more anxiety in the northeast cattle-ranching region where residents already live under the fear of a bloody turf war between drug cartels. Hermine struck around the same area where 72 migrants were killed two weeks ago in what is believed to be the country's worst drug gang massacre to date.

By Tuesday afternoon, lights were gradually turning back on for about 50,000 people who lost power. Practically all of Raymondville had been in the dark after Hermine blew out signs, snapped utility poles and skinned the roof of the Best Rest Inn motel.

Melodie Tamyl and Roy Tamez were in their second-story room when their ceiling began bowing up and down. They opened the door just in time to watch the wood awning flip violently backward.

"I told (Melodie) that we've got to get out of here right now," said Tamez, 52. "The whole roof is about to go."

The couple returned Tuesday to find half the roof over their room gone and their bedding soaked and soiled with ceiling tile and mud. They picked through soggy clothes and food, salvaging what they could.

Hermine made landfall barely a day after becoming a tropical storm. That left many south Texas residents with little notice, but also gave the storm little time to build up steam.


Associated Press Writers Jorde Vargas in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Emilio Lopez in Pachuca, Mexico, and Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.

Written by <P class="ap-story-p">By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press Writer</P>


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