Rio Grande Flood: Conditions Improving; Still Hazardous near Floodways


Floodwaters Receding; Cleanup Begins 

Diversion into Floodways Ending Soon

Floodways Still Dangerous Despite Receding Water Levels; Return to Normal Expected by end of August

The latest:

The stage at Rio Grande City as of 915 am CDT Thursday, August 19th, was quickly returning to normal, having fallen to 32.27 feet or 15.73 feet  below bankfull stage (48 feet).  Even as upstream releases continue to dwindle rapidly, the river will still run high downstream of the Anzalduas Diversion Dam but likely return to normal flows by the end of August.  Hot, largely rain free weather across the Rio Grande Valley into the northern Sierra Madre in Mexico will continue for the rest of the week and perhaps longer, ensuring stability to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Flood Control Project. The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) was maintaining releases of 185 cubic meters per second (cms), or 6,639 cubic feet per second (cfs), from the Falcon International Reservoir on August 19th.  Releases are expected to drop further as inflow from Amistad Reservoir upstream and other reservoirs in Mexico continues to be reduced. This release rate is down from the 860 cms (30,000 cfs) before the weekend of August 7-8th, down from 1300 cms (46,000 cfs) on August 1st and from a peak rate of 1700 cms (60,000 cfs), which was in effect for two weeks (July 14th through 27th).  The much reduced release from Falcon International Reservoir has leveled off the pool elevation at Falcon Dam, with some inflows continuing to arrive from Amistad.  The level was just  below flood stage (301.2 feet), having edged up slightly to 301.02 feet as of 215 pm August 16th, now 0.18 feet below flood stage.

Locations along or near the river in Starr County and in southwest Hidalgo County to just west of Penitas, where levee improvements begin, will continue to see receding water levels, and the river will likely return to normal flows by the weekend of August 21st through 23rd.  Locations inside the levees from Penitas to the start of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Floodway system at Anzalduas will no longer be at risk, though there will likely be areas of standing water and plenty of mud.  Local flooding where pumping is needed in poor drainage locations within the Lower Rio Grande Floodway is no longer a concern as waters are now receding more rapidly inside the floodway.  Diversions into the U.S. interior floodway at Anzalduas Dam will soon end, accelerating  water level reduction in the Banker Floodway, Main Floodway, North Floodway, and the Arroyo Colorado. 

The level at the Anzalduas Dam has finally dropped well below action stage (110 feet), most recently at 105.83 feet as of 7 AM August 19th, after peaking at 111.44 feet on July 20th; the level has remained below action stage since August 6th.  Flood stage at Anzalduas Dam is 112 feet, but releases have been adjusted to maintain levels just below flood stage through this event.   This level marked the first time in about a month that the pool level had dropped below its prior record, 108.27 feet, originally set in 1971.   Additional, but lesser, flows will be diverted by the diversion dam at Anzalduas into the Lower Rio Grande Floodway system.  Flows will continue to remain high on the lower Rio Grande downstream from Anzalduas towards Brownsville through the week and possibly until the end of August.   Locations downstream including both Brownsville and San Benito will remain well below flood stage, but levels will remain near bankfull (action) stage into the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of August before falling steadily thereafter. Residents in Hidalgo and Cameron counties should continue to pay close attention to the latest statements and advisories from the National Weather Service Office in Brownsville.

The International Boundary and Water Commission continues to divert floodwaters at Anzalduas Diversion Dam in Hidalgo County, Texas into the U.S. interior floodway.  Diversions into Mexico’s interior floodway at Retamal Dam also continue. The U.S. interior floodway includes channels known as the Banker Floodway, Main Floodway, North Floodway, and Arroyo Colorado through portions of Hidalgo, Cameron, and Willacy Counties. Prior to this event, the last time the International Boundary and Water Commission diverted water into the U.S. floodway was in 1988 due to the effects of Hurricane Gilbert. 


Information about Rio Grande flow as well as storage and release data from U.S. and Mexican reservoirs in the Rio Grande basin is available on the USIBWC web page at:


Please note:  Additional upstream flows and backwater conditions - water that gets constrained by the levees downstream - may further affect flood levels, particularly in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  

Stay tuned to this web page for the latest updates. Click to monitor the latest information for Rio Grande City, Falcon International Reservoir, San BenitoBrownsville, and Harlingen.   Press releases are also available on the right side of the International Boundary and Water Commission web site.  


This will be the final update to this particular news article.


Impacts and Actions: 

August 19th Update: 

Hidalgo County Emergency Management will lift voluntary evacuations for the area south of Havana, and the area known as Capote Farms south of the Main Floodway on "I" Road (south of Pharr).  Water has fully receded in each location.  Residents in Havana have already entered and clean up is underway.  Along "I" Road, 2 to 3 inches of water remains but homes are now fully accessible.  These are the last of the evacuations to end in Hidalgo County.


August 15th Update:

Water levels had receded sufficiently in the vicinity of the Main Floodway along "I" Road (just south of Pharr) to allow limited access.  High water was still around homes in the area, ranging from around 4 inches (estimated) on the south side of the road, and between 12 and 18 inches on the north side of the road.  On the east side of the affected area, along relatively high ground where water had fully receded, a high water mark of 22 inches was measured.  County Emergency Management officials will investigate by August 19th or 20th, when water levels should have receded fully.  Until then, voluntary evacuation status continues for this location.  


Early August Updates:

President Obama officially declared most of the Rio Grande Valley a major disaster on August 3rd, due to impacts from Hurricane Alex and resultant, and continuing, flooding.  The declaration included the Counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Zapata, as well as Jim Hogg (likely from the Hebbronville Tornado on July 2nd).  Preliminary local property damage estimates in Starr and Hidalgo County alone were at $40 million at the end of July.  These estimates do not include crop damage, which may be significant particularly for cotton harvests.  On August 4th, a body was found in the Main Floodway just south of Pharr (Hidalgo County), but the death is likely not directly attributable to flooding.  Dozens of water rescues of Mexican Nationals have been reported since the flooding began in the Rio Grande.  So far, no fatalities have been directly attributed to the flood.  


July 21st/22nd Updates:

Starr County:  Evacuation status for the the City of La Grulla has been upgraded from mandatory to voluntary as of noon, July 22nd. Water levels rose a little bit in Roma on the 21st (8 inches in height) but no further impacts were noted.  In total, 178 homes have been impacted countywide.  Initial damage estimates to bridges and highways alone stands at $19 million; property damage assessments were underway by local and federal emergency management officials into the weekend of July 23rd/24th.
Zapata County:  Thirty-three homes remain evacuated along and near flooded Falcon Lake.

Hidalgo County:  A mandatory evacuation is in effect for homes south of Military Road in the town of Havana.


July 19th/20th Updates:

Hidalgo County:  5 residences were evacuated near Military Road in the town of Havana in southwestern Hidalgo County due to river flooding. The community of Los Ebanos is now under voluntary evacuation, as conditions have improved to the point that mandatory evacuations were lifted late on July 20th.


July 17th Updates:

Starr County:  Number of impacted homes, as of July 17th:  La Grulla:  65.  Roma:  39.  Rio Grande City:  10.  Elsewhere in county:  12.  Total:  126.  Shelters in Alto Bonio and Roma are housing a total of 44 adults and 14 children. FM 1430 between the U.S. 83 east and west connections (west of Garciasville and including La Casita - Garciasville) is closed, and continues to collect water.  Mandatory evacuations remain in place in La Grulla and selected mandatory evacuation in Roma.

Hidalgo County:  A minor leak in the levee system on the Main Floodway south of Weslaco was plugged on July 17th, according to the IBWC. No other significant changes to previous updates.

Willacy County:  A leaking levee valve required pumping of water away from homes just east of FM 1420...immediately north of the Levee Road on the North Floodway near Santa Monica.

Cameron County:  The stage on the Arroyo Colorado was approaching 22 feet Sunday morning.  While this level remains well within the floodway, the high water has created a pseudo-lake of sorts in McKelvey Park. 


July 16th Updates:

No new updates or evacuations changes at this time.  Please see previous updates listed below.


July 15th Updates: 

Zapata County:  Emergency Management officials have issued mandatory evacuations for residents living along the shoreline of Falcon Lake.  Shelter is available at the County Fairgrounds. Residents in the City of Zapata and nearby communities are being told to conserve water in case of any pump failures.

Starr County:  Mandatory evacuations are now in effect for all of the City of La Grulla based on continuing high water and forecast additional rises over the next few days. 

Hidalgo County:  From the Hidalgo County website : A voluntary evacuation order has been ordered by Hidalgo County Office of Emergency Management for an area of 15 to 20 homes south of Military Highway and “I” Road, which turns into Doffing Road.

All mandatory and voluntary evacuations in Los Ebanos, Penitas and La Joya, which have been ordered by the County Judge or by cities’ mayors, remain in effect.

Structural assessment teams are inspecting the Penitas pump house, which was built in 1925, as a precautionary measure. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has evaluated the levee and has advised that it is sufficient for this event. Crews from McAllen, Mission and Edinburg are reinforcing the levee surrounding the United Irrigation District’s pump house.

Willacy County:  Three low water crossings are closed due to flooding within the North Floodway, which stretches east to west across the extreme southern portion of the county.  These include FM 507 and FM 1420.


July 14th Updates:  Emergency Management in eastern Hidalgo County report the following information within the Lower Rio Grande Floodway System:  Water coverage is from bank to bank in many areas.  The following are bridge and structure reports crossing the Main and North Floodways.  Along FM 493, levels are about halfway up the levee system; water incursions had moved past barricades.  The Donna Pumping system was at risk; mitigation efforts are scheduled for today (Thursday).  Along FM 88 (Texas Boulevard) south of Weslaco, water was rising rapidly and had flooded two nearby residences located within the levee; two more were soon to flood as of late Wednesday evening.  In the Floodway near FM 1015, a Methodist Camp had some protection from the levee and had not yet evacuated; the low water crossing had water at mid-bridge estimated 6 to 8 feet above ground level. In the North Floodway (north of Weslaco/Mercedes), water was being pumped over the levee at 12 1/2 Mile Road between Weslaco and La Villa.  Finally, the Floodways near the Retamal and Donna Bridge were nearing capacity. 


July 13th Updates: In Starr County, City of La Grulla Police Department reported barricades have been set up on Las Alegrias Road, East Las Palmas Street, and Division Street.  In Hidalgo County, the Mayor of Penitas has issued a voluntary evacuation for the City.  Numerous roads are closed within the Floodway system in eastern Hidalgo and western Cameron County, including low water crossings within the Main Floodway (which tracks east from Federal Highway 281 just south of Pharr to the split at the Arroyo Colorado near Mercedes) and North Floodway (which tracks north from the split near Mercedes, continuing to La Villa before bending east near Sebastian).  The latest downstream flows are expected to raise the level of water in the Floodways an additional 3 to 5 feet, still well within the constraints of the levee system, which averages 12 to 14 feet in height.  For the latest on road closures, click here.    


July 12th Updates:  The City of La Grulla (Starr County) experienced additional flooding on Monday, July 12th, when a dike at a retention pond ruptured overnight Sunday, July 11th, allowing additional water to spread into more areas, including some houses.  Residents living along and south of Private Lazaro Soliz Street remain under a voluntary evacuation.  The following areas are under area remains under voluntary evacuation, and 20 families had left.  In Los Ebanos, a community in southwestern Hidalgo County surrounded on three sides by the river, a mandatory evacuation was declared; as of 10 PM July 12th, only 4 families remained with flooding expected to increase further.  Other high water has been noticed encroaching near Military Road (not Military Highway) south of Havana, La Joya, and Penitas; the rising river has closed Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (south of Pharr) with river water covering some roads.  The Cities of Progreso and Progreso Lakes have not been impacted but access has become limited due to increasing water levels. As a precautionary measure in  the city of Roma (Starr County), three small sub-divisions located in the low lying areas and along the bank just south of the Port of Entry are under a mandatory evacuation.  These include De La Cruz sub-division about (20 to 25 homes), Campo Verde (4 homes), and Garza sub-division (1 home).

Residents in the Rio Grande Basin should continue to monitor National Weather Service warnings and forecasts for any updated information about flood conditions.   

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