Local preparations underway for threat of heavy rainfall in flood-prone region

City worker Jorge Vilches fills sandbags at the City of Edinburg Services Center on Monday, June 3, 2019, in Edinburg. There is a limit of six sandbags per residence and eight per business. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

A handful of municipalities in Hidalgo County began preparing for heavy rains expected across the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service in Brownsville are closely watching Invest 91L, one of the first tropical systems to form during hurricane season, which began Saturday.

The system has about a 60% chance of developing into a tropical depression or tropical storm and, if it does, it will be named Tropical Storm Barry. But due to the system’s proximity to the coast along the Bay of Campeche, experts give it virtually no chance of becoming a hurricane.

“Invest 91L, the tropical low, is expected to move toward the northwest over the next day or two along the northern Mexico coast to near the mouth of the Rio Grande,” Matthew Brady, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville, said Monday. “It’s expected to stay rather disorganized but it could still become a tropical depression or a weak tropical storm.”

Rainfall, and the sequential flooding of poor drainage areas, likely poses the biggest threat for the Valley, he added.

“We’re being told (to expect) one to three inches in our area, and four to five inches in the coastal counties,” Hidalgo County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricardo “Rick” Saldaña said.

Still, new information was trickling in Monday evening, making it difficult to pinpoint potential areas of concern.

“Right now, they’re telling us not to follow any of the models because everything is still unstable (in order) to give an accurate location of where this system is actually moving,” Saldaña said.

But municipalities like Edinburg, Mission, Palmview and Weslaco, which are no stranger to flooding, did not wait. City employees began distributing sandbags on Monday and Pharr is expected begin on Tuesday.

Local emergency managers also began communicating with each other.

“(We’re) getting everyone engaged, making sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to this tropical event that’s down in the Gulf of Mexico and how it may impact us,” Saldaña said. “We’re expecting our heaviest portion of rain Wednesday.”

He called on county residents to sweep and bag grass clippings and leaves — or any debris that could potentially flow into gutters and block drainage.

HEAT TO FOLLOW

After Invest 91L drags some tropical moisture into the region and departs, expect some tropical heat to follow in its wake.

High temperatures on Friday and through the weekend will range from the mid-90s along the coast to 106 in the Upper Valley.

“That is because of that big upper-level pressure system over the desert southwest that will be moving into North Texas,” Brady said. “This is going to drive the (tropical) system out of our way and to the gulf coast area to the north.

“It’s going to heat us back up for Friday and into the weekend,” he added. “We’re going to be quite hot and humid with heat indices returning in the 105 to 110 range, with some locations in the Upper Valley eclipsing the 110-degree heat indices range.”