10 Years Later: Remembering Hurricane Dolly a decade after it made landfall on South Padre Island

By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
editor@portisabelsouthpadre.com

Monday, July 23 will mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Dolly, which made landfall north of the City of South Padre Island at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 23, 2008. It was the first hurricane to make a direct hit on the Rio Grande Valley in many years.

It took Dolly one three days to form from the time meteorologists put out the first advisories on July 20 to the time it made landfall on the Island, said Jason Straub, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Brownsville. “The track pretty much followed right up the Rio Grande. It slowed down as it went across Deep South Texas here,” Straub said.

Ultimately, the storm continued north-westward until it reached the deserts of west Texas and New Mexico — an odd track for a storm, Straub noted, saying that tropical weather systems typically head the opposite direction, north east.

But where Dolly ended up mattered little to the residents of the Laguna Madre communities, and the Rio Grande Valley as a whole. For residents of South Padre Island, Port Isabel and Laguna Vista, what mattered was the havoc Hurricane Dolly wrought here, locally.

Joe E. Vega had just been elected as mayor of Port Isabel two months before Dolly formed. In a phone interview Wednesday, the former mayor quipped that one of the first things he did as mayor was pray to God to keep the Gulf waters calm. “The only thing I asked is that you (God) don’t send any hurricanes my way,” Vega said he asked in his prayer. “And guess what, I was blessed by fire,” he said.

Dolly had strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane before making landfall, with the highest reported wind gusts at 100 mph, according to information released by the NASA Earth Observatory. It had weakened to a Category 1 by the time its winds and rains lashed the beaches of South Padre Island, but its effects were enough to knock out power to the entire area. Some 200,000 customers overall lost power, Straub said.

The PRESS reported at the time that the power outages lasted as long as seven days in some places.

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