Severe storms pound South Texas as crews scramble to fix breaches in border levees

Border Report Tour

MISSION, Texas (Border Report) — Storms dumped several inches of rain Wednesday morning in the Rio Grande Valley, where breaches in the levee system have yet to be fully repaired, and the threat of flooding looms, as more severe weather, including tornado warnings, remain in the forecast.

In Hidalgo County, repairs to at least two of the four damaged sections of the levee were still being done when storms rolled through the region Wednesday, County Commissioner Everardo “Ever” Villarreal said. The concern is that if too much water inundates the region and the Rio Grande continues to rise, then it could flood the banks as the earthen levee, which was cut by construction crews to build the border wall during the Trump administration.

Repairs began earlier this month after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced he would send crews in to fix the dirt levees after he received increasing pressure from border leaders.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez had told Border Report that if the levees were not fixed then he was concerned over 1 million people were at risk of flooding south of the expressway.

“We need the rain. But this is a lot at once,” KVEO Meteorologist Freddy Vela said on Wednesday morning as severe thunderstorms moved through the Rio Grande Valley.

A tornado watch was issued, as well as a flash flood warning for Starr and Hidalgo counties.

“This storm is showing no signs of slowing down,” Vela said as heavy lightning strikes and power outages throughout the region were being reported.

Hidalgo County Commissioner Everardo “Ever” Villarreal inspected several of the areas on Tuesday and provided the photos above.

Fixes to 1,000 feet of the 1,700 feet were completed in the Chimney Park area south of the town of Mission, where a popular Winter Texan RV park is located and where the border wall has cut through the property.

On Monday, Border Report watched as crews worked past 8 p.m. to shore up the area in anticipation of the storms, which have been predicted for several days.

The cuts to the levee system were made in order to transport heavy equipment south of the structure so border wall crews could build the barrier ordered by the Trump administration. The Biden administration has stopped new border wall construction but Mayorkas ordered that at least four areas of concern be worked on in anticipation of the start of hurricane season, which begins June 1.

A road-sized cut is seen on April 14, 2021, in Palmview, Texas, near South Abram Road. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

One area in the small town of Palmview, near Abram Road, where reporters have been taken to multiple times by the county judge has been completely fixed, Villarreal reported. But other areas are still being worked on and should be completed by June 1, he said.

“As inclement weather approaches our area, the safety of all Hidalgo County residents continues to be a top priority for my office. I am happy to report that reparations to the breach located on South Abram Road are completed and reparations to the breach located near Chimney Park are near completion. I will continue to work with local, state, and federal officials to ensure our levee is restored to its original state before the deadline of June 1, 2021. Also, we will continue to monitor the Rio Grande levee during this period of inclement weather,” Villareal said.

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