President Bush finally declared El Paso County a disaster area, more than two weeks after major flooding hit his home state. The border city was hit with 15 inches of rain in the span of a week (including seven inches in one day), nearly twice the annual precipitation. Including in neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, more than 5,000 homes have been damaged and preliminary estimates put the damage at more than $100 million.
Flash flood warnings are still in effect and the Army Corps of Engineers has said that an aging earthen dam holding back 6 million gallons of water from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, could flood El Paso in as little as three minutes. Mayor John Cook told the El Paso Times, it would be “like a tidal wave hitting downtown El Paso.”
Two years ago John Walton, a hydrologist at UTEP, tried to get the city, the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA to do something about the rapid development in arroyos and the resulting poor drainage systems in the city, telling top officials, “failure to address these issues could lead to flooding of homes and businesses during a large storm event.” His pleas were ignored.