Jul 072010

The final death toll from Hurricane Alex last week stands at 12. It is a tribute to the effective preparations made by residents and authorities in advance of the storm, and to relief efforts, that more people did not lose their lives.

The center of Monterrey, an industrial center which is Mexico’s third largest city, was briefly turned into a raging torrent, with widespread damage to roads and infrastructure. Click here for a photo gallery showing some of the extensive damage caused by Huricane Alex.

Hurricane Alex

Hurricane Alex. Photo: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

In addition to those made homeless as a direct result of the storm, a further 18,000 people have been evacuated from their homes because they are downstream of the Venustiano Carranza dam, located about 70 km (43 miles) away, which is now at bursting point.

The authorities in Ciudad Anahuac (a short distance south-west of Nuevo Laredo) have opened some of the dam’s floodgates to ease the water pressure but the situation is still reported to be critical. The opening of the floodgates released 600 cubic meters of water a second into the Río Salado, a tributary of the Río Bravo/Grande. Meanwhile, residents have been moved to shelters in nearby towns.

Santos Garza Garcia, the town’s mayor, told reporters that “It was preferable to have controlled flooding than having the whole town disappear.”

In a related development, the bi-national International Boundary and Water Commission, which adjudicates Mexico-USA border issues, ordered the release of 1,000 cubic meters a second (35,000 cubic feet per second) of floodwater from the Amistad reservoir into the Río Grande. The Amistad reservoir straddles the border upstream of the cities of Del Río (Texas) and Ciudad Acuña (Coahuila).

The heavy rains had already swollen the Río Bravo/Río Grande (which forms along the Mexico-USA border) to dangerous levels. The level of the river is being continuously monitored. Its level has risen by as much as 6 meters (20 feet) above normal. As a precaution, several border crossings, including the international bridge between Laredo (Texas) and Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas) have been closed.

It is the first time since 1995, that an Atlantic hurricane has struck Mexico’s Gulf coast as early as June. Everyone hopes that the main hurricane season, in July-August-September, does not bring further loss of life and property damage.

Additional note added Thursday July 8: The Mexico-USA border area may be in for a very wet week, since Tropical Storm 2 (which would become Hurricane Betty if wind speeds increase) is now approaching. Weather Underground has more details and maps showing the possible storm paths.

Earlier posts:

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.


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