Tropical Storm Hermine crosses into Texas

McALLEN, Texas - September 7, 2010

As when Hurricane Alex lashed the same flood-prone Rio Grande Valley in June, there was a feeling that Hermine could have been worse. There were no reports of serious injuries or major damage early Tuesday, and authorities ordered no evacuations.

Hermine dumped between 5 inches to a foot of rain after crossing into Texas late Monday. The storm made landfall in northeastern Mexico with winds up to 65 mph (100 kph), arriving near the same spot as Alex, which killed at least 12 people in flooding in Mexico after remnant rains from the storm.

But unlike Alex, which swiped Texas then plunged southwest into Mexico, Hermine was felt in more places.

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

Hermine left all but one block of Raymondville, about 20 miles off the Texas coast, without electricity and ripped roofs off several buildings. A 5-year-old girl was also cut by broken glass when gusts from the storm threw a trampoline through the window of her family's home, said Robert Supulver of Willacy County's emergency operations center.

"It was a lot of wind, a lot of rain coming real fast," Supulver said.

As many as 30,000 homes were without power in the Rio Grande Valley early Tuesday, according to an online outage map of American Electric Power, the area's power utility. A company representative did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Shelters throughout Rio Grande Valley were on standby but mostly kept their doors shut, and offers for sandbags saw relatively few takers.

Flash flood warning remained in effect Tuesday, but officials said first reports only indicated nuisances such as high water on neighborhood streets.

Hermine might have been no Alex in terms of strength, but it wasn't taken lightly: Mexican emergency officials in Tamaulipas worked to evacuate 3,500 people around Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, and schools on both sides of the border canceled classes Tuesday.

By early Tuesday, the center of the storm had crossed the Rio Grande River. The National Hurricane Center said the storm was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) south-southeast of Falfurrias, Texas, and 65 miles (105 kilometers) southwest of Corpus Christi. It was moving north-northwest near 17 mph (28 kph).

A tropical storm warning was in effect from the mouth of the Rio Grande north to Port O'Connor, Texas. Tropical storm warnings that had been issued for Mexico were canceled early Tuesday.

Hours after Hermine made landfall, Coast Guard Ensign Scott Kimball said a fishing vessel had run aground at a jetty near South Padre Island. He did not have any more immediate details.

Hermine was expected to weaken into a tropical depression later Tuesday. Tomaselli said remnants of Hermine will be felt as far north as Oklahoma and Kansas in the coming days.

In Mexico, Hermine brought another unwelcome downpour.

Mexico's northeast cattle-ranching region is one of the most dangerous hotspots in the country's bloody turf war between two drug cartels. It is the same area where 72 migrants were killed two weeks ago in what it 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. Classes in Matamoros and several other Mexican towns were canceled, and authorities began releasing water from some dams to make room for expected rains.

"We urge the general population to be on alert for possible floods and mudslides," said Salvador Trevino, director of civil defense for Tamaulipas, where Matamoros is located.

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

On South Padre Island, Hermine arrived too late to ruin another long weekend at the tourist hotspot. Alex plummeted Fourth of July hotel occupancies to about one-third of the normal rate, but most Labor Day weekend vacationers were already packing up for home by the time Hermine came into the picture.

"It really crept up on us," said Dan Quandt, executive director of the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Tornado watches were in effect for 16 Texas counties early Tuesday.


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

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