Daring rescue saves 3 lives after Hurricane Hanna barrels through Texas

Like a tragic crossover episode between two catastrophic television series, a community center known as the "Dome" in Mercedes, Texas, presented a uniquely grim glimpse at the tumultuous year that turned even worse for South Texas residents over the weekend.

As Hurricane Hanna spewed a mangled mess across the southeastern portion of the state, officials in Mercedes needed not only a place to house storm evacuees, but also a facility to take special mind of those who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Enter, the "Dome."

"The dome shall be the shelter for COVID-exposed families," the city announced in a press release on Saturday. "Proper safety gear for staff and other safety measures shall be employed to make the facility and families as safe as possible. Be advised that this is for basic sheltering, and not hospital-care sheltering. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation."

Shawn Pugsley surveys the damage to a private marina after it was hit by Hurricane Hanna, Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Corpus Christi,Texas. Nolan's boat and about 30 others were lost or damaged in the storm. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

For the first time in months, the pandemic wasn't the main hazard to fear. Not with life-threatening rainfall falling from the skies and hurricane-force winds whipping from the earliest H-named tropical storm in recorded history.

In Corpus Christi, the National Weather Service reported that about 2 to 3 inches of rain fell on the region by 6:50 a.m. Sunday, triggering widespread flooding. South Padre Island, where Hanna made its first landfall late Saturday afternoon, measured more than 14 inches of rain.

The heavy winds spurred the need for an emergency rescue of three boaters at Marina Del Sol in Corpus Christi. The Texas A&M Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) water rescue squad used inflatable boats to save the trapped people, two of whom are elderly, on a sinking sailboat in rough waters and 65-mph winds.

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Along with the 40-year-old boat owner, two 80-year-olds were rescued and returned to dry land, but not without complications.

"As the boat was returning to safety, it hit debris causing damage to the motor. The rescuers had expected complications and added additional rescue personnel to crew the boat. As soon as the motor failed, the crew members used their training and switched to paddling the boat to safety," officials said, according to KIIItv.com.

"This is the worst we've seen so far," Corpus Christi resident Erica Zuniga told AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Waddell. "We're still trying to rebuild from Harvey, so it's different," she said, referring to the notorious hurricane that hit nearly three years ago. "We never stay around; we usually leave, but it's been a crazy year."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Sunday that federal aid for 32 counties had been approved.

Even after Hanna weakened into a tropical storm and moved way over central Mexico, the storm's effects were being felt on Monday morning. According to PowerOutage.us, more than 100,000 residents in Texas were still without electricity to start the workweek.

In Mexico, the remnants of the storm were weakened by the mountainous terrain of the country's northeastern region. Still, the former hurricane packed enough of a punch to flood major areas.

In the city of Monterrey, residents were urged to stay at home on Sunday as local authorities issued a red alert due to heavy rainfall from the tropical depression. As of Monday, an 11-year-old boy is missing after he fell into a stream in Monterrey and was dragged away by the current.

In nearby Reynosa, a major roadway had to be closed after flooding swelled a nearby river and broke its banks. Over 400 people had to be evacuated from the region and over 200 military personnel had to assist the affected residents, as over 20 vehicles were stranded in flooded roads.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Maura Kelly, the formation of Hanna, now a tropical rainstorm, has been ripped apart by the mountains and lost much of its wind strength.

"It can still bring heavy rainfall to northeastern Mexico into Tuesday," Kelly said. "Total rainfall amounts of 8-12 inches are expected across northeast Mexico with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 16 inches. The continued heavy rainfall will exacerbate ongoing flooding and lead to additional flash flooding."

Kelly added that the storm is not expected to survive the trip over the mountains of Mexico and is expected to dissipate into the middle of the week.

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