Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The boomerang effect of a disaster

Hello Ferfal,

The boomerang effect of a disaster:

I'm sending you this article to show how sometimes a natural disaster that bears no apparent consequence to a distant population does a boomerang and hits it on the back end.  I'm talking about hurricane Alex and its impact on Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.  Everyone knows that Alex hit Monterrey, Mexico the hardest, not with strong winds, but by dumping 1 meter of water in 30 hours.  The river Santa Catarina which is a dry valley most of the time came down raging and flooded the city, devastating a lot of infrastructure.  This was all over the news and on the social networks.

Point of reference:  Nuevo Laredo, Tamps. is the Mexican border city with Laredo, TX, 420 miles south of Dallas on I-35.

Now what does this have to do with Nuevo Laredo, a city 120 miles north of Monterrey and relatively unaffected by Alex?  Well, along its dying path, Alex dumped massive amounts of rain into two lakes with dams.  The first lake was Presa Don Martin south west of Nuevo Laredo and  the second lake was Presa La Amistad, north west of Nuevo Laredo.  These two lake control the Rio Salado and the Rio Grande.  The water management authorities fearing the lakes would burst if another weather system dumped more water opened the flood gates on July 7th for both lakes.  They knew there was going to be flooding to the city of Anahuac alongside of the Rio Salado and to the border towns along the Rio Grande, Laredo and Nuevo Laredo included.  They informed the population accordingly and helped it evacuate.

Of the bat, Nuevo Laredo, which this time of year regularly has 100-102F (40-42 C) heat, was left without water for 3 days because the city took out the water pumps that draw from the Rio Grande to high ground.  Water service has been restored by now but pressure is weak and the water is murky.  The first few blocks of both cities got flooded and the water jumped over one of the three bridges (the one used for pedestrian crossings) connecting the twin cities.  Also, the railroad bridge remains close pending safety inspections and holding many rail road cars going in and out of both countries.

Anahuac was also flooded and many people had to be evacuated, some by force, to shelters.

The Rio Salado caused structural damage to a bridge connecting the highway from Anahuac to Nuevo Laredo and washed off the highway connecting Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo.  As you can see on the map, Nuevo Laredo suddenly became isolated to the north by the Rio Grande and to the south by a bridge in disrepair and a washed-off highway.  The supply line routes to the city of Nuevo Laredo remain severed and the stores are running out of food.  Many restaurants have closed their doors because they have no food to cook.  People have begun panic buying but there is no civil disorder, yet.  I know all this from first hand accounts from my family and friends  who lives on both sides of the border.

So here is a good example of people getting caught of guard.  Monterrey knew the hurricane was coming and prepared to the best of its ability.  Despite the massive flooding, there were only about 15 dead reported.  Nuevo Laredo had no clue that 10 days later it would be isolated from the rest of Mexico, flooded without drinking water, and without food on the shelves.  Hopefully, the highway to Monterrey gets fixed in the next two days.

Feel free to share this with you audience if you like.

Best regards,


Link to Spanish article:

Link to map showing Nuevo Laredo in relation to Monterrey, Anahuac, and the lakes:

Link: <http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=laredo,+tx+to+monterrey,+mexico&sll=27.519433,-99.498494&sspn=0.054654,0.077162&ie=UTF8&ll=27.547242,-98.953857&spn=6.990738,14.0625&z=7&dirflg=d>

Jose, thanks a lot my friend for the article and pictures.

I’ve been working seriously on survival and preparedness for almost ten years now, and one of the things that I learned is that no matter how avid an imagination you may have, reality often exceeds it.
The month we spend here in Buenos Aires covered by smoke because of political disputes, started by the government so as to blame the farmers for it and turn the people in Buenos Aires against them is a good example, and how crazy was it that at the same time people down south had a volcano erupt and many towns ended up covered in ash, crops and livestock lost. The price of respirators and facemasks suddenly went up times ten as you can imagine.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, your main priority should be preparing for the most likely problems based on your personal situation and location but you also have to plan for the unexpected. How do you do that? By thinking for a second what you need to stay alive: Air, shelter, food, water and security.
No matter how bizarre a situation may be, if you have those covered there’s a good chance you’ll be able to deal with it. In the smoke case, air was the problem, suddenly everyone wanted respirators, masks, and air filters for their homes. In this case, its shelter that is being compromised, and the best way to prepare regarding losing your current shelter (your home) is not only having a tent or camper, but having a plan B location, far enough so as to not be affected during a regional disaster, close enough to get there with realistic means at hand. (having enough gas stored to get there sort of makes sense... and rotating it every 6 months to keep it fresh)

Notice something else, the kind of vehicles that are still able to work. They don’t save gas like an economy sedan, but a 4x4 with elevated exhaust and air intake suddenly becomes priceless.
Thanks for your email Jose. As you said, a good example of people getting caught off guard.



Anonymous said...

The article should continue to mention that the Rio Grande River (Rio Bravo) that is flooding Nuevo Laredo is also flowing downstream to Falcon Dam reservoir, which is releasing water to make up for the incoming. Communities below this dam (about 100 miles to mouth of Rio Grande) are being flooded as well - a ripple effect for sure.

When Alex hit two - three weeks ago, flooding was anticipated, but then hurricane hooked left to Mexico. They should have released water then to lessen effets of emergency dump. Falcon Dam will likely exceed its record flood height set in 1958 - 308'. It is now about 304'. I hope the dam does not get washed away - population on both sides of river is likely near 2 1/2 million population.

Anonymous said...

Same thing on the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers in the USA. If it's flooding in the north be ready in the south along the banks and flood plains. I know most of you know better but then I see the news stories of folks flooded downstream.
Of course these are the same news programs that talk about hurricanes and earthquakes that happen year after year like it's a surprise!