BY Alana Rocha, Mitchell Ferman and Juan Pable Garnham, The Texas Tribune

Texans in the Rio Grande Valley and along the Coastal Bend continued to face the impact of now-Tropical Storm Hanna on Sunday.


The storm, which made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane Saturday evening at Padre Island, packed sustained winds as high as 90 mph and caused power outages and flooding. Rain bands from the hurricane will linger over much of the region all day Sunday.

As of 1 a.m. Sunday, Hanna had weakened into a tropical storm and was moving toward northern Mexico, according to the National Weather Service.

Liz Sommerville, a senior forecaster for the station, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that there is a chance for severe thunderstorms that could bring strong winds, heavy rain and low-line, coastal flooding in the region all-day.

Coastal flooding that could reach up to two to three feet will be especially evident in the northern and southern parts of Port Aransas, Sommerville said.

A flash flood watch is in effect until Sunday night for parts of several South Texas communities, including Nueces, Bee, Jim Wells, Refugio and San Patricio counties.

A tornado watch is in effect in Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Falfurrias, Laredo, Zapata, McAllen and Brownsville until 10 p.m. Sunday.

As of 6:50 a.m., the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi reported 2.86 inches at its station, 2.94 inches at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi, 2.28 inches at Alice airport and 1.33 inches at Victoria airport.

The storm, which landed 15 miles north of Port Mansfield, caused flooding along the coast and the energy provider for the region was reporting more than 140,000 outages as of Sunday morning.

Less than an hour before Hanna's landfall on Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott called for residents not to forget the already existing threat of COVID-19 in the face of the natural disaster.

"Any hurricane is an enormous challenge," Abbott said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon. "This challenge is complicated and made even more severe seeing that it is sweeping through an area that is the most challenged area in the state for COVID-19."

Abbott announced that the state's emergency response would include 17 COVID-19 mobile testing teams focused on shelters and 100 medical personnel provided by the Texas National Guard. For people who leave the area, the American Red Cross will be providing hotel vouchers in San Antonio's Freeman Coliseum. The governor also issued a disaster declaration for 32 counties and a federal emergency disaster declaration request.

"We will be responding in the way that we typically respond to hurricanes, but on top of that we will respond to the COVID challenges," Abbott said Saturday.

One of those challenges could be how to handle an emergency in COVID-19 hot spots, such as nursing homes.

"We worked very close with all of the nursing homes through the testing and the cleaning. We know exactly where they are, how many residents they have," said Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief W. Nim Kidd. "If we need to evacuate a nursing home at this point, we still have all the resources that we've had in every hurricane season to do that. The difference will be that we will be wearing more P.P.E. than we've had in the past."

The National Hurricane Center previously issued a hurricane warning for a section of the Texas coast from Port Mansfield to Mesquite Bay — an area that includes Corpus Christi Bay, Aransas Bay and Padre Island.

The agency also issued a warning of storm surge for a wider area, including the coast from Port Mansfield to Sargent. Looking to assist, Abbott had already dispatched emergency resources to the Coastal Bend region and to the Rio Grande Valley, where the governor is simultaneously sending more than 1,000 medical personnel to help fight the novel coronavirus, which has devastated South Texas.

Corpus Christi had already decided to close a drive-thru coronavirus testing site until at least Tuesday.

"Don't forget to know," said Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb, "we're also fighting the coronavirus."

It was a stark reminder for a region that has been a coronavirus hot spot, adding well over 2,000 COVID-19 cases during each of the first two weeks of July. At least 2% of the population was infected, or one in every 50 people. Now the region is preparing for a storm in the middle of a pandemic.

Originally article published in The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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