Willacy Co. officials urge Port Mansfield evacuate as TS Hanna strengthens

Officials in Willacy County are recommending the evacuation of Port Mansfield as Tropical Storm Hanna continues to strengthen as it heads toward the South Texas coast.

“It is highly encouraged that residents, property owners and tourist(s) consider evacuating the Port Mansfield area as soon as possible,” said Port Mansfield Port Director Ronald Mills in a news release late Friday night.

The projected track of TS Hanna shifted southwesterly throughout the day Friday, leading weather officials to issue hurricane warnings for Port Mansfield. Severe weather and heavy rainfall is also expected to affect much of the Rio Grande Valley over the weekend.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Brownsville now expect the storm to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall on Saturday afternoon somewhere between Baffin Bay and Corpus Christi.

“The storm is still predicted to bring unprecedented amounts of rainfall to the Valley with Port Mansfield now projected to be in a zone that could receive 11 – 14 inches of rainfall,” Mills said.

“…(T)he storm could make landfall as a Hurricane that would add a measure of concern due to winds accompanying the rainfall in excess of 75 MPH,” he said.

Mills encouraged residents to heed the danger and begin evacuating as soon as possible, as rain bands will begin affecting the region hours before the storm officially makes landfall.

“If this storm proceeds as currently projected it is very likely that persons in Port Mansfield could become trapped in a community that will not have power for an extended period of time and where evacuation via vessel or vehicles will be impossible due to the only two means of egress being closed by flood waters,” he said.

The port director also alluded to the Great June Flood of 2018, and the subsequent catastrophic flood of June 2019, reminding residents that those rain events caused such issues even though they were smaller in severity than the coming tropical weather system. “Understand that all these events have happened within the past two years with storms on a much smaller scale than TS HANNA,” Mills said.

Mills also said if the storm makes landfall in Baffin Bay, its lack of direct access to the Gulf of Mexico will likely result in higher storm surges in Port Mansfield.

Willacy County officials will continue to issue sandbags Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. “at the Willacy County Navigation District warehouse behind the church on Mansfield Rd. (Hwy 186).”