HUD approves $46M for 2018 flood relief

Stalled vehicles are towed in high water on Texas Blvd. after heavy rains caused water to rise and flood whole neighborhoods on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Weslaco.

The skies opened up in South Texas last Tuesday at about the same time the federal government announced $46.4 million in grant funding for recovery efforts stemming from severe storms and flooding nearly a year ago in Cameron, Hidalgo and Jim Wells counties.

Last year’s disasters left damaged homes, businesses and infrastructure in their wake, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said last Tuesday in a statement announcing the funding.

Several South Texas cities were damaged from the June storms last year. Among the hardest hit was Weslaco, which saw between 16-18 inches of rain pelt the city over the course of just a few hours.

Earlier this month, voters there passed a $10 million bond aimed at tackling several drainage improvement projects. The funds, which will raise property taxes by approximately 3 cents per $100 valuation, are in addition to $4 million in certificates of obligation the Weslaco City Commission approved last fall.

Drainage has been a focus for Valley leaders in recent years as they have tried to expand projects to ensure even quick bursts of rainfall don’t result in street flooding, or worse. Last Tuesday’s brief flash of rain forced the temporary closures of more than 10 intersections around the McAllen area, Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra said.

“South Texans endured relentless storms last summer and many are still recovering from the resulting damage,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said in a statement last Tuesday.

Cornyn’s Senate counterpart, Ted Cruz, echoed similar sentiments in a statement of his own.

“Last year the Rio Grande Valley experienced unprecedented flooding, unlike anything before, and as a result we’ve seen Texans unite to rebuild communities that were hit hard,” Cruz said.

Around the Valley, drainage improvement projects are underway — spurred by what the National Weather Service dubbed The Great June Flood of 2018 in the RGV. Along with the steps already initiated by Weslaco city leaders, county leaders have begun another spate of improvement projects in the Mid-Valley, as well.

Late last month, Precinct 1 Hidalgo County Commissioner David Fuentes was joined by local dignitaries in breaking ground on a $10 million detention pond project in north Weslaco, adjacent to the Las Brisas neighborhood, which was one of the most severely flooded areas of the city last year.

The city of McAllen has also put forth a roughly $50 million drainage master plan, part of which has already been put in motion. In April, the city began construction on one of 66 drainage projects city officials have identified across the city.

While officials wait for the federal dollars to reach South Texas, projects like the one that began in April near McAllen High School could not be finished faster. At the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez was worried about days like Tuesday.

“Every time it rains, I just cringe at the fact that an inch of rain impacts this area,” he said.

HUD approved the $46.4 million in disaster relief via a Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery.