BROWNSVILLE (US), Jul 24: Hurricane Dolly slammed into the South Texas coast with punishing rain and winds of 160 kph, blowing down signs, peeling off roofs and knocking out power to thousands before weakening over land.
Local officials' greatest fear -- that the levees holding back the Rio Grande would fail and cause massive flooding - eased when Dolly yesterday meandered 56 kilometres north of the US-Mexico border just before coming ashore on South Padre Island as a Category 2 storm. About two hours later, Dolly's winds slowed to 153 kph, and the storm was downgraded to a Category 1.
"The levees are holding up just fine," said Cameron County Emergency Management Coordinator Johnny Cavazos. "There is no indication right now that they are going to crest."
The storm defied forecasts that it would swarm the mouth of the Rio Grande, pushing its current upstream and causing massive flooding on both sides of the border.
Most of the destruction was on South Padre Island, a beach resort town on a barrier island off the Texas coast. Numerous roofs were ripped off and windows were smashed. The roadways and yards were strewn with trees, fences, power poles and fallen streetlights. Business signs rolled around on the streets like tumbleweeds.
The causeway linking the island to the mainland was closed.
A 17-year-old boy fell from a seventh-story balcony, injuring his head, breaking his hip and fracturing his leg, said Dan Quandt, spokesman for South Padre Island emergency operations. He was being treated at an island fire station.
Forecasters warned of up to 30 centimetres of rain that could produce flooding in the heavily populated Rio Grande Valley. Up to 50 centimetres was predicted for isolated areas.