SAN BENITO, RGV – Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño says the Rio Grande Valley was lucky to evade Hurricane Harvey, and early preparation with emergency directors from all cities, school districts and city officials for the storm was a good sign.
Treviño said the county was able to cooperate with every city to distribute sandbags in case the hurricane took a turn to the Valley. He said preparing for the worst is a lesson learned.
“This the first time that I know of that every city, small or larger in the county, got involved and engaged in that program. Some of them needed our help in the county either in the regards to the delivery of sand and/or bags,” Treviño said.
Treviño made his remarks at a coffee morning event hosted by San Benito Chamber of Commerce.
“Often times people had to bag their own, but at the bare minimum it was a great effort to see and we didn’t have any violence scene, people didn’t get upset, there were some long lines at different precincts here in the county and everybody was cooperative. And again, it’s a lesson learned. Sometimes you jump too early sometimes you jump to late, we made that determination Wednesday evening to go ahead and start on Thursday.”
The county took other precautions by canceling everything on Friday, buildings and beaches, but they were surprised a hurricane of that magnitude didn’t drop any rain in the Valley.
“Obviously no one anticipated us literally not getting one drop of rain,” Treviño said. “It’s shocking because this storm was 80 miles off shore, 80 miles offshore as it passed Brownsville. You saw how huge it was, it was as large as Katrina, the water was more.”
Treviño said Cameron County distributed over 50,000 sandbags before the hurricane landed on the Gulf Coast and that its officials coordinated with utility companies and water and drainage districts. He said this was essential to preparation and another lesson learned.
“We were coordinating with the utility companies, with the water districts and the drainage districts, these are things that haven’t been done in the past. Getting them in involved with regards to planning and preparation, so these are things that were going to learn from for the next time,” Treviño said.
Treviño added that climate change would create more powerful hurricanes like Harvey, a disadvantage for the Valley, which is vulnerable to flooding. He emphasized Cameron County needs to invest in pumps to drain water from flood prone areas if a hurricane were to strike.
“I hope we never have to deal with this and not to get too political, but the climate change issue, if you look at the history of the last 20 years, the magnitudes of the storms are getting larger and larger and larger,” Treviño said.
“We’re not going to become a high plain area, we are a low-lying area, we’re not going to change. When we get hit by a major storm, we know we’re going to have flooding and some areas are going to be worse than others.
“I can tell you, the county has eight pumps and I told David Garcia, our administrator, I said that has to change immediately. I said, eight per county? For a county our size its spread out because we’re a large, large, county area wise, so I’m going to work on that. All of this stuff cost money, ladies and gentlemen.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows houses submerged in flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey on August 30, 2017 in Northwest Houston. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)