Home Emergency Heavy weekend rains in South Texas could endanger migrants crossing to U.S....

Heavy weekend rains in South Texas could endanger migrants crossing to U.S. following Title 42 lift

Heavy rainfall expected to deluge South Texas could make border crossings a more risky endeavor for migrants crossing the U.S. southern border after the expiration of asylum restrictions known as Title 42

The weather conditions, which are expected to swell the Rio Grande River along the border, come just after the pandemic-era restrictions were lifted, timing that could put lives in danger as the number of people crossing the border rises. 

“The last time they saw rivers run this high in the area would be 2017 or 2018,” said Gregory Waller, a service coordination hydrologist with the National Weather Service West Gulf River Forecast Center, of river levels. “These flows are not common.” 

The rain had begun already Friday and was forecast to continue into the weekend. 

The Rio Grande is the fifth longest river in the U.S. and extends some 1,900 miles from Colorado through New Mexico and down into Texas and northern Mexico. It supplies drinking and irrigation water for roughly 6 million people and 2 million acres of land, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission.

A stretch of the river between the Texas border towns of Del Rio and Laredo, which twists and turns for more than 150 miles, is of most concern, Waller said. That’s because dams and reservoirs provide flood control along the Rio Grande.

Migrants cross the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, on Thursday.Alfredo Estrella / AFP via Getty Images

The Amistad Reservoir near Del Rio is at 35% capacity and the Falcon Reservoir near Laredo is at 21% capacity, according to the Texas Water Development Board, meaning both should be able to capture and control floodwaters effectively. 

Stretches of the river between those two towns could see heavy rainfall and localized flooding, Waller said. 

“This can be interpreted as a possible worst case scenario forecast,” a message posted to the agency’s Twitter page said. “We are seeing a 60%-70% probability of at least 4 inches of rainfall.”

Drowning deaths have been reported along this stretch of water before. Last year, nine migrants died near Eagle Pass after heavy rainfall in the area, and a Texas National Guardsman drowned while attempting to save two migrants from being swept away by the current. 

On Thursday, Texas Public Safety law enforcement officers erected barbed wire near the river to deter people from attempting to swim across. The city of Eagle Pass warned residents the area could receive as much as 10 inches of rain in some areas. 

Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this week directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to prepare for severe storms and flash floods. The governor ordered several swift-water boat squads to prepare to respond and perform rescues in southeast Texas. 

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