Hurricane Dolly plowed through South Texas last week, dropping 4.7 inches of rain in Robstown in two days, although the city was largely spared of damages with isolated flooding and a few downed trees.
Robstown residents had a seemingly normal workday July 23 as Hurricane Dolly made landfall at about 2 p.m. at South Padre Island as a Category 2 hurricane, dropping more than a foot of rain on the island.
The storm was expected to drop 8 to 12 inches of rain over parts of South Texas, with isolated amounts of 20 inches.
Local schools closed an hour or so early July 23 and many businesses along Robstown's Main Avenue remained open throughout the afternoon as the storm moved inland, with wind gusts up to 53 mph recorded at the Corpus Christi International Airport.
"We get that kind of wind with a cold front sometimes, so it wasn't that unusual," said National Weather Service forecaster Jim Reynolds.
There were no reports of damage in the Robstown or Northwest Corpus Christi area and no road closures or power outages were reported, although heavy rains occurred off and on for two days while the storm moved west.
Many Robstown residents returned to their daily routines the afternoon Dolly made landfall as the rains lightened and the sun sometimes peeked through the dark clouds.
Robstown's west side residents pitched in to clean up fallen debris the day after Dolly passed through. The scattered clean up was compounded by a west side water main break that released large amounts of water into the streets.
The local weather July 24 switched back and forth from a calm sunny afternoon at about 2:30 p.m. to a heavy downpour in a matter of minutes, with nearly horizontal rainfall.
The downpours averaged only about 5 minutes each, followed by another brief respite before another downpour occurred.
Robstown Emergency Medical Services director Juan Martinez said Hurricane Dolly did not produce a single emergency medical call in Robstown, although the EMS department received its normal half-dozen calls July 23 when Dolly made landfall.
"It was just our usual calls that we get. There hasn't been much of anything going on lately," Martinez said July 24. "There was nothing really storm-related that happened these past few days.
"A lot of people got sent home from work early and I just think it kept everyone at home to stay dry and out of the weather. That's what it seems like anyway."
Martinez said the EMS department of eight employees was prepared for emergency contingencies, although Robstown officials said there were no reports of flooding.
"Everyone was on standby from Monday night until Thursday morning," Martinez said. "Fortunately, we dodged a bullet. My concern was flooding and tornadoes, and we didn't get either. These bands came in spread out enough that it really didn't hit us so bad. We just got lucky this time, I guess."
Robstown Fire Chief Richard Gonzalez said the Fire Department also did not receive any hurricane-related calls.
"No one called for an evacuation either, so I guess it was pretty calm for us," Gonzalez said. "We activated our Emergency Operations Center Monday morning at City Hall and listened in to local and state conference calls. All of our department heads were participating in the activation of the EOC. We had all of our emergency services at City Hall."
The operations center, that included elected, administrative, drainage, school, utility and housing authority officials, was shut down the afternoon of July 23 after the storm passed over, with Robstown residents and Main Avenue businesses seemingly going about business as usual.
"When a hurricane is predicted to head your way, everyone is concerned," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said July 24 there had been no reports of power outages or major flooding, although he added he and zoning officer Danny Saenz were going to drive around Robstown and survey the situation.
"We've had no calls yet of flooding, but we're going to get out there to check," Gonzalez said July 24.
Lt. Gilbert Gomez of the Robstown Police Department said police also did not receive any hurricane-related calls.
"We got just really wind, no wind damage or anything like that," Gomez said. "We had everybody on standby and we had normal staff operating. It's just a good rain that we got. That we needed."
Gomez said all the preparations taken by city officials and personnel served as a training exercise for the next time Robstown is threatened by a major storm.
"It's still early in the hurricane season. We lucked out on this one, but maybe that will give us an incentive," Gomez said. "I think it brought an awareness to us early in the season. Hopefully this will help us to be prepared and think about the things we need to do at home, in business and in government entities. This was just like a drill. To me, I think that helps. We need to be as prepared as we can if one is headed this way."
Surveying the town the day after the storm hit land, several people were seen lending a hand to residents in the 500 block of West Avenue F where a tree had split between two homes at 438 Cenizo St. and 503 W. Avenue F.
Robert Maldonado of 503 W. Avenue F said the tree fell the night of July 23 and pulled down telephone and cable wires leading to his house.
"We were lucky it didn't fall on the house because I think it would have caused serious damage," said Maldonado's sister-in-law, Isabel Garcia. "My sister and my brother-in-law were asleep when they heard a large cracking sound and they saw the tree in the morning."
The felled tree hit the roof of Liza Alvarado's rental home at 438 Cenizo St.
"It's going to need a new roof pretty soon," said contractor Adam Garcia of Remodeling & Additions.
Neighbor Pablo Uribe of 432 W. Avenue F was lending a hand July 24 hauling away the felled tree, although Uribe said his own home had experienced extensive flooding.
Uribe, who lives at the house with his family of four, said he had flooding throughout his house, with a large puddle in his side yard, but he said July 24 he had not yet reported the situation.
The flooding was even worse across the street at 434 Cenizo St., although the flooding there was contained to the yard and did not reach up into the house on cinder blocks.
"They need more drainage or something," said Yolanda Serna, daughter of the woman living at 434 Cenizo St. "They need to fix the streets."
Serna said the home's yard also flooded last summer when Hurricane Humberto grazed South Texas. She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied her mother assistance last year.
"They didn't do anything about it then either," Serna said of the flooding. "I guess because they don't have enough drainage or something."
The isolated flooding in Robstown was compounded July 24 by a punctured water main at Flores Street and Avenue G.
Alfred Rosas of Hemkels & McCoy said he and his crew were doing work for Verizon at the corner after a tree had fallen and snapped a utility pole, pulling down phone and cable lines.
"We were drilling for a new pole and we hit the water line," Rosas said.
The 2:30 p.m. accident resulted in water bubbling out of the water line and down W. Avenue G.
Lupe Ramirez of 700 N. Flores said she was surprised to come home and see a bubbling water main next to her driveway.
Noe Garcia, who was on leave from the U.S. Air Force and visiting his parents at nearby 485 W. Avenue G, said about half the water pressure was lost at his parents house after the water line was punctured.
"They're just wasting water right now," Garcia said. "They should be isolating the line right now."
Rosas, who said he expected to work 14 to 16 hours the day after the hurricane made landfall, said he and his crew would wait until the Water Department closed the water line, then head to Orange Grove for more storm-related repairs.
Rosas continued spot-work at the site and maintained his cool, although he acknowledged his company could be billed for the punctured water line.
"It was too close to the pole," Rosas said of the water line.