Residents across South Texas slogged through knee-deep muddy waters, tiptoed around downed power lines and dug through debris Thursday, but were thankful that Hurricane Dolly didn't pack the wallop they had feared.
Downed power lines remained the greatest danger, and South Texas officials urged people to stay home one more day “unless it's life or death.” One person in Matamoros, Mexico, died from electrocution after walking past a power line on the ground.
Residents picked up the pieces of their houses and businesses blown apart by the storm. But as dry skies spread over the region, they were struck by relief that the storm didn't take many lives. Even so, there will be substantial cleanup: President Bush declared 15 counties in South Texas a disaster area to release federal funding to them, and insurance estimators put the losses at $750 million.
By Thursday afternoon, with the storm's maximum sustained winds blowing around 35 mph, forecasters downgraded Dolly to a tropical depression. The storm was expected to break up by today.
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Rain and wind from Dolly probably doomed much of the cotton crop in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. About 92,000 acres of cotton in the region was awaiting harvest but driving rains and high winds knocked bolls to the ground, making them unsalvageable, Texas Agri Life Extension agent Rod Santa Ana said. Sorghum acres damaged by rain in early July also could be doomed, he said.
After crashing ashore on South Padre Island midday Wednesday, Dolly meandered north, leaving towns on the northern tip of the Rio Grande Valley with a surprise. Officials had feared the Rio Grande levees would breach, but the storm veered from its predicted path and they held strong.
The storm dumped as much as a foot of rain in places and brought 100 mph winds.
A remnant on Thursday blew several roofs off houses and businesses on San Antonio's south side, about 300 miles northwest of where the storm made landfall. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
An aerial view of the Rio Grande Valley showed fields forming a checkerboard pattern, some inundated with water, others spared. Traffic was moving again in most places, but some residential areas were surrounded by floodwaters and debris was strewn across lawns.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who flew over the area Thursday with Sen. John Cornyn, noted possible flooding over the next five days. “This event is not over by any sense of the imagination,” he said.