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Storm hits Mexico, takes aim at Texas

By Jorge Vargas
Associated Press / September 7, 2010

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NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — Tropical Storm Hermine slammed into Mexico’s northern Gulf coast near the US border late yesterday with winds of 65 miles per hour, threatening heavy rains that could cause flash flooding in Mexico and Texas.

Mexican authorities urged people to move to shelters while officials in Texas offered sandbags and warned of flash floods as Hermine neared. The storm was expected to cross the border within hours of touching land about 40 miles south of Brownsville, Texas. It was expected to push northward up Texas today.

Hermine threatened to bring as much as a foot of rainfall to some areas battered by Hurricane Alex in June. Remnant rains from Alex killed at least 12 people in flooding in Mexico.

Hermine “will briefly be over Mexico, and then we’re expecting it to produce very heavy rainfall over south Texas,’’ said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the US National Hurricane Center. “We’re expecting widespread rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches with isolated amounts of a foot possible. Especially in the hilly and mountainous terrain, that could cause life-threatening flash flooding.’’

The cattle-ranching region is one of the most dangerous hotspots in Mexico’s turf war between two drug cartels. It is 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.

Mexican emergency officials urged those living in low-lying coastal areas to move to shelters, and authorities in Tamaulipas state began evacuating 3,500 people around Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville. Classes in Matamoros and several other Mexican towns were canceled, and authorities began releasing water from some dams to make room for expected rains.

In inland Hidalgo state, authorities said heavy rains caused by the passing storm unleashed landslides that damaged 20 residences, left 120 people homeless, and cut off small communities.

Unlike Alex, Hermine’s approach to Texas brought far less anxiety. No evacuations had been ordered as of late yesterday, and shelters throughout the flood-prone Rio Grande Valley were on standby but were still keeping their doors shut.

Schools around Brownsville, where Alex dumped nearly a foot of rain in June, closed today as a precaution. Officials said they wanted to keep school buses from driving amid wind gusts that could reach 40 miles per hour.

Sandbags were also made available across South Texas, but there were few takers.

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