A powerful overnight rainstorm that blew in during the wee hours of Wednesday morning temporarily knocked out power to thousands of residents across the Rio Grande Valley, though officials are reporting little major damage.
At the height of the storm, some 42,000 customers lost power, according to representatives with AEP Texas and Magic Valley Electric Cooperative.
“Peak outage was at 3 a.m. We had 36,748 customers out,” said AEP spokesperson Eladio Jaimez.
“The current number that are without power are 944,” said Ronie Garza, communications coordinator for MVEC.
The electric coop said that number had dropped from an initial 6,000 who had lost power overnight.
The storm, which brought with it wind gusts over 70 mph, developed overnight Tuesday, bringing squalls that swept west from Zapata to South Padre Island.
“We had a weak cold front and was over south central Texas yesterday and that provided a focus for thunderstorms to develop across South Texas and in addition across the Mexican-U.S. border,” said Mike Castillo, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville.
“Those storms eventually evolved into a line that moved into our area late last night,” he said Wednesday.
The NWS says some of the strongest wind gusts occurred in the Mid-Valley, where official measurements exceeded 60 mph, Castillo said. Those winds caused damage in the form of downed trees, and damaged power lines.
AEP reported the bulk of its affected customers were in the Donna area, where more than 8,000 customers remained without power as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Donna Mayor Rick Morales said city crews were on alert prior to the storm’s arrival and began clearing streets as soon as the storm blew past.
“Public works were out there as soon as it stopped raining. By around 3:30, 4 o’clock in the morning, our guys were out there clearing some of the larger branches that were in the street. They’ve been working since early, early this morning,” Morales said.
Morales also shared unconfirmed reports of so-called straight line winds far in excess of the NWS’ official tallies.
“A lot of trees were down and a few fences were down. Getting reports that we had straight line winds of between 80-100 mph in parts of Donna,” Morales said.
Both power companies attributed many of their power outages to wind damage, and added that crews continue to gather data about the severity of that damage.
“It seems to be a mix of things. We have had some downed power lines due to trees. I know the wind does take a huge effect into knocking (down) and causing damage,” Garza said.
AEP’s Jaimez said it could take as long as Thursday before some of its customers could see their power restored.
Edinburg, Pharr and the Mid-Valley area are expected to be fully restored by Thursday, while Harlingen, McAllen, Mission, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City and San Benito were expected to be restored by Wednesday afternoon.
“One of the challenges we’re having right now is some of the areas are hard to get to because of standing water,” Jaimez said of the restoration efforts.
But though some areas saw standing water, in general, the storm did not produce any flooding.
The NWS said that was due in large part to much of the Valley being under drought conditions.
“Because of the drought conditions, we didn’t see significant flooding, but there were areas where there was localized nuisance flooding,” Castillo said.
“That was one of the benefits of being in the drought conditions that we had is that with the rainfall that we received the ground was able to absorb a lot of that rain that fell,” he said.
The Mid-Valley saw between 1 to 3 inches of rain, while 2 to 4 inches were reported in the Lower Valley, Castillo said.
Los Fresnos, which was one of the last places to be hit by the storm, saw just over 4 inches of rain.
Castillo said the next chance for significant rainfall is Saturday, when thunderstorms may again crop up.
“We are expecting a fairly good chance of showers and thunderstorms on Saturday,” Castillo said.
“Right now, it seems kind of marginal for the potential for severe weather, but obviously, that would bring some additional rainfall over the area,” he said.
As crews continue to restore electric service to the area, officials urge residents to unplug large appliances in order to prevent power surges that could delay restoration.
“I just want to thank the customers for being patient. I know that what we’ve been through in recent months; it can get kind of scary and frustrating. So we just want to thank them for their patience and understanding,” Jaimez said.
Garza, with MVEC, echoed that sentiment.
“We do appreciate everyone’s patience. We are working extremely hard. Our crews are working continuously, around the clock and we appreciate everyone’s patience,” Garza said.
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