News Roundup: After Heavy Rain, A Disaster Declaration For Three Rio Grande Valley-Area Counties

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJune 28, 2019 1:03 pm

Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a state of disaster for three counties in the Rio Grande Valley after severe flooding: Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties.

The area is still dealing with the effects of heavy rains earlier this week.

Rick Hallman, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Brownsville, says the rainwater is still draining. “On Monday, we received anywhere between 6 and 12 inches of rain, [with] maybe a couple of isolated areas a little higher than that, toward Raymondville and Sebastian.”

“Areas further inland are draining and it’s stopping a lot of the water that’s in the eastern areas from draining out,” Hallman continues. “The floodways are filled, the Arroyo Colorado is pretty high … so the water really has nowhere to go at the moment.”

Hallman says a local flood warning is in effect through this evening, but could be extended through this weekend or early next week.

House Democrats are slamming the Environmental Protection Agency. They say the EPA is dragging its feet on a Congressional investigation related to Hurricane Harvey.

As Travis Bubenik with Houston Public Media explains, the probe centers on a NASA plane that could have surveyed pollution over Houston after the storm – but didn’t.

The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, led by Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, has been looking into why the plane wasn’t used when NASA had offered it up.

The Los Angeles Times, citing internal NASA documents, reported that state regulators and the EPA didn’t want the pollution survey because “NASA will run with this dataset to the press and in the process, make EPA and [the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] look bad.”

The committee chairs now accuse the EPA of withholding documents related to the dispute, and the chairs are threatening to asubpoena the agency. At this stage, it’s mostly a complaint about principle, as the committee’s already gotten the documents in question from other sources.

The EPA insists it’s being responsive, and says it plans to share more documents later.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is reminding Texans to avoid sick or dead wildlife.

Agency spokesperson Lara Anton explains officials decided to share the advice after two confirmed cases of animal anthrax in Uvalde County.

“Anthrax is naturally occurring,” Anton notes. “We’ve seen it in this part of Texas before, but we wanted people to be aware especially if they came across any wildlife that were dead or sick. Don’t touch their bones, don’t touch antlers, don’t touch a carcass obviously, because they could be carrying the anthrax spores that [are] life threatening.”

Anton adds humans usually contract anthrax, which is a bacterial disease, through their skin. The state agency says there have been no human cases of anthrax infection reported in Texas this year.