NEW (Sunday 11 July): At present the discharge of the Río Bravo/Grande is decreasing, but a secondary peak discharge is expected to sweep downstream from late Monday through Tuesday, depending on the precise location.
The following summary of recent developments related to Hurricane Alex has been compiled from a variety of news reports.
Loss of life
In Coahuila, memorial services have been held for Horacio del Bosque Dávila, the state’s Director of Public Works, who died alongside seven colleagues while assessing the flood damage from the air, when their light plane crashed.
Four more deaths from drowning have been reported, with the discovery of four bodies on the bank of the Río Bravo near Ciudad Acuña.
State of emergency
A state of emergency has been declared in many more municipalities, bringing the total number of affected municipalities to 43 in the state of Nuevo León and 25 in Coahuila.
The municipalities recently added to the list are:
- Nuevo León: Agualeguas, Galeana, Doctor González, García, Marín, General Zuazua, Mina, Hidalgo, Iturbide, Los Herreras, Parás and Pesquería.
- Coahuila: Los Acuña, Allende, Cuatrociénegas, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jiménez, Juárez, Morelos, Múzquiz, Nava, Piedras Negras, Progreso, Sabinas, San Juan de Sabinas, Villa Unión and Zaragoza.
Highways and transport
Both main highways between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo are currently closed, and expected to remain so for another 3-4 days.
- Federal highway 85D is flooded between km 143 and 146, near Sabinas Hidalgo, due to the Río Salado overflowing its banks.
- Highway 85 (the non-toll highway) is closed at km 155, near Ciénega de Flores, because of a badly damaged bridge.
Cross border rail services were also suspended for a time.
International Bridge #1 was closed for more than 24 hours as the Río Bravo peaked, but has now reopened. Not surprisingly, truck traffic across the international bridges into Nuevo Laredo has been severely affected, especially since they currently have no way to proceed further south.
The vehicle inspection offices on the Mexican side of the bridge were flooded.
Several roads in and around the city of Monterrey have been closed due to flooding and resulting landslides.
In Tamaulipas, 41,700 people have been forced out of their homes, in 19 municipalities. In Hidalgo municipality, work has begun on erecting an emergency bridge to reconnect 14 small settlements to the rest of the state following the destruction of the old bridge. The settlements include El Chorito, one of the most revered pilgrimage centers in north-eastern Mexico.
Flow levels on the Río Bravo/Grande
The flow levels on the Río Bravo/Grande are unprecedented in recent times. All floodgates at the Venustiano Carranza dam have had to be opened, and are expected to remain so for 4 or 5 more days.
The Río Bravo has not experienced flows like this since the construction in 1968 of Presa La Amistad. The river peaked at a height of 13 meters, more than 12 meters above its normal level for this time of year. Its peak discharge was 7,500 cubic meters per second, also a post-dam record.
A total of up to 300,000 hectares of agricultural land have been affected by flooding. Tamaulipas has applied for emergency farming aid for an area of 153,500 hectares in 32 municipalities.
The most valuable crops to be affected are sorghum, corn, cotton, chile, tomato, alfalfa and canteloupe. Sorghum production alone is likely to fall by one million tons.
The cost of the repairs needed for the badly damaged potable water network in the city of Monterrey (Nuevo León) is estimated at 260 million dollars.
The hurricane has damaged more than 1,000 schools in Nuevo León, out of a total of 3,535. At least 60 schools suffered severe structural damage. The estimated repair costs are about 30 million dollars.
This YouTube video is a collection of photos showing the extraordinary amount of damage done in the city of Monterrey.
The loss of life and property damages might have been much greater had it not been for efficient emergency services and disaster response. Aid is reaching almost all the victims of the floods, either via the Red Cross or via Mexico’s Armed Services (Army and Navy).
Hundreds of additional firemen, rescue crews and police have been drafted in to help.
A shelter for more than 800 people is operational in the city of Matamoros.
A vaccination campaign is already underway, with measures being taken to prevent an outbreak of dengue fever.
Telmex (Teléfonos de México) and other phone companies are giving residents in areas affected by flooding up to a week of free local and national long distance calls.
Two undocumented Central American migrants were rescued from the river after having been swept more than 5 kilometers downstream. They had tried to cross the river using an inner tube. It had taken one of them two months to reach this border crossing from his home in Honduras.
A rescue helicopter plucked 8 people to safety from the steel tower supporting the community water tank in El Camarón, located between Nuevo Laredo and Cd. Anahuac. They had been marooned when the River Salado overflowed. Local officials believe another five people may also have been trapped, but have so far failed to locate them.
Previous posts related to Hurricane Alex:
Mexico’s climatic hazards, including hurricanes, are analyzed in chapter 4 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy today, so you have a handy guide to the “back story” behind Mexico’s current affairs.