Hurricane Hanna Downgraded to Tropical Depression, Continues Pounding of Virus Ravaged South Texas

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Photo By Artistic Operations

A Texas home still standing, despite water damage, from Hurrican Harvey. Three years after the devastating storm, South Texans faced Tropical Depression Hanna, which at its height ushered in the start of the 2020 hurricane season.

By Amy Simon, Reporter

On Saturday, South Texas faced a high-end Category 1 hurricane, also known as Hurricane Hanna, making it the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season. Cities have faced up to 16 inches of rain, with a potential two to four more inches of rain coming this week. Tornadoes have been spotted in South Texas, and wind speeds have gone up to 90 mph. Governor Greg Abbott has issued a disaster declaration for 32 counties in the state and a federal emergency disaster declaration request, which was approved by President Donald Trump.

“Any hurricane is an enormous challenge,” Mr. Abbott said in a news conference on Saturday. “This challenge is complicated and made even more severe, seeing that it is sweeping through an area that is the most challenged area in the state for COVID-19.”

By Sunday evening, Hurricane Hanna dropped to a tropical depression, with maximum winds of 35 mph. A flash flood emergency has remained Hidalgo County, Texas, where more than a foot of rain has fallen. According to a press release from the City of Harlington, the city had nearly 12 inches of rain on July 26 and 27. On Saturday, 200,000 power outages were reported. As of Monday, July 27, 60,000 power outages remain. Many businesses, including Wild August Flowers, have been destroyed since Hurricane Hanna made landfall.

“The downsides are obvious,” Wild August Flowers founder Jennifer Wilson said. “The upside takes a little more looking, but it’s there. A foot of rain at once does have some positive effects, including pushing potentially harmful salts found in the canal water we use to irrigate down out of the plants’ root zones and ultimately making our soil better. We’re going to be okay, it’s just going to take some time. In the meantime, we have closed all orders. We don’t have any flowers left in the field at this point.”

Hurricane Hanna has caused much damage including portions of North Beach sunk underwater, parts of the Bob Hall Pier on South Padre Island being destroyed, and high volumes of debris reported in Corpus Christi. Beaches from the northernmost boundary of the Bob Hall Pier parking lot to the southernmost boundary of Access Road 6 have been closed. Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales announced on June 28 that the county had launched contracts for debris removal, and conducted discussions with TAMUCC students on how to renourish the beach. Jeff Hawk, External Affairs Officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 6 Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) said that their team is working to coordinate activities involving potential federal support. 

“FEMA deployed to the Texas State Operations Center Friday, July 24 in advance of Hurricane Hanna’s landfall on the Texas Coast,” Mr. Hawk said. “FEMA has received a request for Preliminary Damage Assessments for the State of Texas for three counties including Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy. Those damage assessments have not been scheduled to date.”

More than 400 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the start of the hurricane, according to city data. Abbott announced that the state’s emergency response in the area would provide mobile COVID-19 testing teams located in shelters and 100 medical teams provided by the Texas National Guard. 

“This is a time in response to a hurricane where sometimes people will come together, come together to shelter, come together just as close family come together, as friends come together to respond,” Mr. Abbott said in the news conference on Saturday. “That coming together will continue to provide the ability for COVID-19 to transmit from one person to another.”

Seven shelters have opened up for displaced residents due to the hurricane. Debris cleanup began on Monday. Several public safety announcements were issued including advisories for residents to not ignore barricades, not drive their vehicles into floodwaters, and avoid downed power lines. For now, Mr. Abbot advises South Texas residents to focus on safety measures including facial cover, social distancing, and personal hygiene.