Heavy rains expected in South Texas could make border crossings a riskier undertaking for migrants crossing the southern US border after the expiration of Title 42 asylum restrictions.
The weather conditions, which are expected to flood the Rio Grande River along the border, come just after pandemic-era restrictions were lifted, a time that could put lives at risk as the number of people crossing the border.
“The last time you saw rivers this high in the area would be 2017 or 2018,” Gregory Waller, a service coordination hydrologist with the National Weather Service’s West Gulf River Forecast Center, said of the river levels. “These flows are not common.”
The rain had already started on Friday and is forecast to continue through the weekend.
The Rio Grande is the fifth longest river in the US, stretching about 1,900 miles from Colorado through New Mexico and into Texas and northern Mexico. It supplies drinking and irrigation water to approximately six million people and two million acres of land, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission.
A stretch of the river between the Texas border cities of Del Rio and Laredo that meanders for more than 150 miles is the most concerning, Waller said. That’s because dams and reservoirs control flooding along the Rio Grande.
Amistad Reservoir near Del Rio is at 35% capacity and Falcon Reservoir near Laredo is at 21% capacity. according to the Texas Water Development Boardwhich means that both should be able to capture and control flooding effectively.
The stretches of the river between those two towns could see heavy rains and localized flooding, Waller said.
«This can be interpreted as a possible worst-case forecast,» read a message posted on the agency’s Twitter page. “We are looking at a 60-70% chance of at least 4 inches of rain.”
Deaths by drowning have been reported along this stretch of water before. Last year, nine immigrants died near Eagle Pass after heavy rains in the area and a member of the Texas National Guard drowned while trying to save two migrants from being swept away by the current.
On Thursday, Texas Public Safety law enforcement officers installed barbed wire near the river to deter people from attempting to swim across. the city of eagle pass warned residents the area could receive up to 10 inches of rain in some areas.
Governor Greg Abbott earlier this week directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to prepare for severe storms and flash floods. The Governor ordered several squadrons of whitewater boats to prepare to respond and perform rescues in southeast Texas.