Recent flooding overwhelms Pharr, Hidalgo County response efforts

Families are evacuated during flooding from Hurricane Hanna in July 2020 in Pharr. (Courtesy Photo)

The city of Pharr had to deal with flooding resulting from torrential rainfall this week, particularly Thursday night and Friday morning, with crews responding to help alleviate neighborhoods of floodwaters after experiencing upwards of 5 inches of rainfall.

Asked about the city’s response, interim City Manager Ed Wylie said Friday that pumping efforts were ongoing at the time.

“There’s nothing anybody could’ve done,” Wylie said. “Every bank, every street was flooded. We’ve been pumping out (floodwater) since last night, and we’re still pumping out today.”

Wylie also said he “can’t stop Mother Nature” regarding reports of an irrigation ditch overflowing in the area of Dicker Road and Veterans Boulevard.

“I’ve been out there all night long since 8 o’clock last night,” Wylie said in frustration. “We were out there blocking off roads, but I can’t stop Mother Nature from dumping 5 inches of rain. Everybody’s doing the best they can.

“We’re doing the same thing we do every time — trying to pump out water. The area is a low-lying area, so naturally it’s going to collect water. The county precincts need to be helping, too.”

Hidalgo County Precinct 2 Commissioner Eddie Cantu said the county has been in the flood zones since it first started raining. He said that unfortunately, large standing water areas make it nearly impossible to pump out water, so city and county officials have to wait for water to flow to ditches naturally.

Cantu said that the county has been making efforts to prevent flooding in the area for a few years, but unprecedented rainfall in recent years has made it difficult to keep up with the flow of storms in the area.

“We recognized the problem in 2018 when we got hit with those really big storms — known as the 2018 rains,” Cantu said. “Because of the 2018 rains we quickly went for an election to pass a $190 million bond, which was approved by the voters in November, and we identified that area as one of the areas that needed the most improvements.”

Cantu said the county was able to allocate $15 million of the $190 million to make improvements to the flood-prone area. So far, the county has utilized $2 million to work on those improvements.

The commissioner said that the $2 million in improvements were able to be completed expeditiously because it was done within existing rights-of-way. The county has been able to expand the South Floodwater Channel.

He said that plans are already in the works for acquiring rights-of-way to expand ditches in the area and set up reservoirs.

“We’re out there every time (flooding) happens, and so is the city of Pharr,” Cantu said. “I guess the good news is that there’s a plan in place and there is money. That’s usually the hardest part — that there’s no money. In this case there’s money. It just takes time to actually get the project complete.”

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