Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for the Rio Grande Valley and 28 other counties as Hurricane Hanna makes landfall in Port Mansfield.
The declaration came less than two hours after Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez made a similar declaration for his county, imploring the governor to deploy state resources to aid a region that is already struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The County of Hidalgo, Texas is facing significant threats to life, health and property due to the impact of Hurricane Hanna with the expectation of dangerous to catastrophic flooding, dangerous high winds and torrential rains on July 25-26, 2020,” Cortez’s letter to the governor stated. “I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capability of the local jurisdiction to control. …
“I am requesting that you declare a state of emergency for the state of Texas and issue appropriate directives to deal with the emergency.”
The declaration takes effect immediately and will last for seven days, unless extended by the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court.
“As Hurricane Hanna approaches, the Lone Star State is taking swift action to support the communities in the path of the storm,” Abbott said via a news release Saturday. “We are closely monitoring the situation and working with local officials to help ensure they have the resources they need to keep Texans safe.”
Along with the Rio Grande Valley’s four counties, the governor’s disaster declaration affects 28 counties in the ranchlands and the Coastal Bend, and extends as far north as Houston’s Harris County.
The declaration activates numerous resources from the Texas Department of Emergency Management, including search and rescue crews with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M Engineering and Extension Service, the Texas Military Department and the Department of Public Safety.
Additionally, crews from the Texas A&M Forest Service have been staged to help with debris removal after the storm, and officials with the Department of State Health Services stand by to assist with emergent medical needs, the release states.
“I urge Texans in the region to take all necessary precautions and follow the guidance of local officials. I ask our fellow Texans to keep those communities in their prayers as they brace for this storm,” Abbott said
Furthermore, Abbott said he has requested that President Donald Trump declare a federal disaster. Abbott has also requested assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency “for Public Assistance Category B” and hazard mitigation, the release states.
Local officials continued to announce more local disaster declarations Saturday.
Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina declared a state of disaster for his city. The declaration goes into effect immediately, activating the city’s emergency management plan, and extends for seven days.
Hanna strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane as it moved toward the South Texas coast overnight Friday, with the eye of the storm headed toward Port Mansfield in Willacy County.
Late Friday night, Port Mansfield Port Director Ronald Mills recommended the evacuation of the small fishing village.
By Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Brownsville was reporting “significant structural damage in Port Mansfield,” according to a NWS tweet posted at 2:40 p.m.
A weather observation post in coastal Kenedy County recorded wind gusts of up to 103 mph, the NWS said.