MERCEDES, RGV – Last week’s torrential rains and heavy flooding caused many people to make comparisons with Hurricane Beulah, the most famous weather event in the Rio Grande Valley’s modern history.

Ron Whitlock

A veteran news broadcaster who worked as a reporter during 1967’s Beulah says that while the amount of rail that fell in the Mid-Valley on September 20 and 21 was a lot less than that dumped during the famous hurricane, there are grounds for comparison.

“With Beulah we were all agriculture and farmland. Now, a large amount of these acres are covered with asphalt and concrete and homes and businesses,” said Ron Whitlock, who was a rookie reporter for KRIO Radio during Beulah. As a result, the Valley is now more reliant on man-made drainage systems.

KRIO was the only radio station that stayed on the air throughout Beulah, with Whitlock reporting round the clock. The station dropped all advertising during the run-up to the hurricane to keep residents informed. The deluge was compounded by the San River bringing rains from the mountains around Monterrey down into the Rio Grande Valley and the Valley’s floodway bursting its banks. Whitlock got to interview President Johnson when he visited the Valley to see the damage.

“Hurricane Beulah was a seminal moment in the Valley’s history,” Whitlock told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Last week, 16-plus inches of rain fell in the Mid-Valley. Whitlock said the run-up to Beulah and the hurricane itself brought 50-plus inches of rain to South Texas.

“It was like Beulah, especially here in the Mid-Valley area of Mercedes and Weslaco. This was a wake-up call. There will be another hurricane. We don’t know when. It may be later this hurricane season. This was a mini-Beulah to the folks who were impacted by it,” Whitlock added.

In response to last week’s countywide flooding event, Hidalgo County Commissioners Court has approved $500,000 from the general fund budget in support of temporary positions that will assist in the flood relief and clean-up efforts.

The Court’s action allows to expedite the hiring of workers for the eastern part of the county, represented by Precinct 1 Commissioner David L. Fuentes, said Commissioners Court Executive Officer Valde Guerra.

“As a result of the unprecedented rainfall that we had last week, the county will begin interviewing qualified applicants for these positions,” said Guerra. “The individuals will be interviewed and hired by the respective commissioner.”

Guerra emphasized that these are temporary positions that will end on December 28. The positions include maintenance, equipment operators, and truck drivers specifically for Precinct 1, which was affected the most due to the heavy rains and floods. Precinct 1 encompasses eastern Hidalgo County from Mercedes to Weslaco, Alamo, Donna, Hargill, the Delta Area and Progreso Lakes.

“These job postings are exempt from normal positing positions, given the emergency we have on our hands,” Guerra said.

The county emergency response continues.

Meanwhile, the Hidalgo County Community Service Agency is distributing disaster assistance funds to qualifying low income families in the Mercedes area.  Assistance will be provided to 60 families per day from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily. They began helping residents on Wednesday and will continue through tomorrow. And again July 2 through July 6. No assistance will be provided on the 4th of July holiday.

Assistance venues include the American Legion Post 172, 321 S. Ohio, Mercedes, Texas 7857

To qualify families must:

  • Be below 125% of the 2018 Federal Poverty Level
  • Provide proof of income for everyone living in the home (last 30 days)
  • Provide government issued form of identification
  • Provide photographic proof of damage to property and or home
  • Provide proof of home ownership if claiming damage to home
  • A copy of a current utility bill

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story was provided by Kevin Martinez of Triggers Media.