Storm overwhelms drainage system

HARLINGEN — Water rushed into homes, covered cars and flooded streets as residents tried to pull out of the worst flooding in years.

In northeast Harlingen, floodwaters engulfed the area of Barcelona and Buena Vista streets as well as parts of Fair Park.

The areas of flooding were scattered, City Manager Dan Serna said about 11:30 a.m. yesterday. “It temporarily overwhelmed our drainage system.”

According to city officials, no fatalities or injures were reported as of yesterday afternoon.

City crews were handing out sand bags to help residents keep floodwaters out of their homes.

By yesterday morning, 17 families had called for help in evacuating their homes.

Residents were taking shelter at the La Feria Dome at 1001 Pancho Maples Drive in La Feria.

“Drivers are asked to avoid streets that are flooded,” city spokeswoman Irma Garza stated in a press release. “It can be dangerous to you and you could cause water to flow into homes and businesses.”

Meanwhile, Serna was asking residents to cut down on their use of appliances such as washing machines and dish washers to reduce water flow in canals.

From about 9:45 p.m. to 1 a.m. last night, an unforeseen storm dumped about 12.5 inches of rain.

“It’s obviously a lot of water, a lot of rainfall in a very short period of time,” Serna said. “Right now all our ditches are running at capacity.”

Serna described the storm as having a frequency of a 100-500-year rain event.

“Our internal drainage system is designed for five-year storm frequencies,” he said.

But floodwaters were receding.

“At 3 a.m., we had several inches of standing water,” Serna said. “At 7 a.m. several inches of water had already receded completely. They’ll continue to drain as capacity is created in the ditches.”

Meanwhile, the Arroyo Colorado crested at 22.67 feet at 7 a.m., he said.

By 11 a.m., he said, the floodway rose to 22.48 feet.

“That’s a good sign because it’s starting to create capacity and water is draining,” he said.

During last year’s storms beginning June 21, he said, the arroyo crested at 23.98 feet.

In 2010, Hurricane Alex’s floodwaters led the arroyo to its historic crest of 24.22, Serna said.