Hurricane Dolly Rips into South Texas

AUSTIN, Texas, July 23, 2008 (ENS) – Hurricane Dolly tore into South Texas early Wednesday afternoon with driving rain and sustained winds near 100 miles per hour, ripping roofs off houses and hotels and dropping power lines.

The eye of Hurricane Dolly made landfall over southern Padre Island as a borderline category one to category two hurricane on the Saffir/Simpson scale. The storm blew the roofs off the Bahia Mar, a 10-story resort hotel, and the Palmetto Inn restaurant.

At the direction of law enforcement officials, the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge and Park Road 100 north of the South Padre Island Convention Center in Cameron County are closed and unnecessary travel is being discouraged.

Hurricane Dolly whips up waves off the
Texas coast near Corpus Christi.
(Photo by Jon Brandt)

“The Island community is urged to remain indoors until Hurricane Dolly passes,” said South Padre Island Mayor Robert N. Pinkerton Jr. “Be safe, be smart and leave the roads to our emergency responders.”

Mayor Pinkerton declared a local state of disaster Monday, implementing the Town’s Emergency Management Plan. About 10,000 people have remained on the island, which has lost all electric power. About 300 people on the island are seeking emergency shelter, Cameron County officials said.

At 5 pm local time, the eye of the hurricane was inland over far south Texas. The National Hurricane Center in Miami says that because the hurricane’s circulation pattern is interacting with land, a gradual weakening has begun. Further weakening is forecast as Dolly moves farther inland. It is expected to dissapate in about 48 hours but not before it dumps up to 20 inches of rain over parts of south Texas and northeastern Mexico.

“Texas is rapidly responding to the needs of our residents as Hurricane Dolly continues to bring extensive rain and strong winds through our southern communities,” said Texas Governor Rick Perry. “As we always do in the toughest times, we are seeing Texans being Texans: helping their neighbors, putting others’ needs above their own, and heading toward the trouble, not away.”

More than 2,800 people are in shelters across the state.

Characterized as a large slow moving system, over the next few days forecasters expect Dolly to produce total rainfall of eight to 12 inches with 20 inches of rain in some places and widespread flooding.

“Coastal storm surge flooding up to eight feet above normal tide levels along with large and dangerous battering waves will continue for the next few hours but will subside later tonight,” the Hurricane Center said in a statement.

Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles, or 55 km, from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles, or 220 km.

A hurricane warning remains in effect for the coast of Texas from Brownsville to just south of Baffin Bay and for the northeastern coast of Mexico from Rio San Fernando northward to the border between Mexico and the United States.

Residents of Corpus Christi stand in their
flooded street. (Photo by Rob Colbert)

At four this afternoon, the hurricane warning from Baffin Bay northward to Corpus Christi was replaced by a tropical storm warning, which also remains in effect from Baffi Bay to Port O’Connor.

The tropical storm warning and hurricane watch from La Pesca to south of Rio San Fernando have been discontinued.

Governor Perry today asked President Bush for a major presidential disaster declaration as a result of Hurricane Dolly’s escalation to a category 2 storm shortly before making landfall. A Presidential Disaster Declaration will provide federal resources to support re-entry and recovery efforts.

The governor has issued a state disaster proclamation for Aransas, Bexar, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria and Willacy counties.

Since Sunday, state resources have been activated and pre-positioned throughout south Texas. A force of 1,200 national guardsmen, an incident management team and six UH-60s have been activated and pre-positioned throughout south Texas.

Three incident management teams from the Texas Forest Service have been deployed to Weslaco to support mass care activities.

From the Texas Engineering and Extension Service,160 personnel including water rescue teams and helicopter rescue specialists have been deployed and others are on standby.

The American Red Cross has deployed emergency response vehicles to Weslaco, Laredo and San Antonio and six shelter trailers are in position in Laredo for post-hurricane sheltering. The Red Cross has recruited and deployed 250 disaster workers to Texas.

The Salvation Army has deployed four canteens to Weslaco to support first responders as well as residents of the storm-affected area.

TexasOnline is updating the Emergency Portal with the most recent evacuation maps provided by the Texas Department of Transportation.

An emergency fuel contract has been activated to support possible evacuation and response requirements. The fuel industry is reporting a significant increase in retail fuel sales along the entire Texas coast.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has stationed 81 game wardens, 68 boats and eight airboats from Corpus Christi to Brownsville. An additional 84 wardens, 59 boats and seven airboats are ready to deploy should it become necessary.

A strike team from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that is capable of handling hazardous materials, emergency responders, additional public water supply and wastewater specialists, and a self contained mobile command post trailer with interoperable radio communications and satellite/wireless Internet connections is on standby for pre-deployed in Austin.

The agency is monitoring the impacts to dam and levee structures and is providing a regional representative on the State Rapid Assessment Team that will flyover and assess the impacted area immediately after the storm.

Regional TCEQ staff contacted public water supply and wastewater facilities in the hurricane area and the agency is prepared to provide specialists to help assess storm damage to these facilities.

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