SANTA ROSA, Texas – Outlying sections of Hurricane Emily (search) blew heavy rain across extreme South Texas on Wednesday, causing scattered power outages while many residents waited it out in shelters.
The eye of the storm ran ashore just before dawn near San Fernando (search), Mexico, about 85 miles south of Brownsville. The eye was surrounded by 125 mph sustained wind, making it a Category 3 storm, but the National Hurricane Center said the hurricane-force wind extended outward 70 miles, not enough to reach the lower Rio Grande Valley.
A gust to 49 mph was reported in Brownsville, the hurricane center said.
The American Red Cross estimated about 4,000 people packed up their televisions, video games and coolers of drinks and snacks and settled into the 14 shelters set up across the region.
"Why take a risk?" asked Zulema Longoria, 43, one of about 160 people spending the night at a shelter in Elma E. Barrera Elementary.
Cindy Ruiz went to the school with 12 relatives, including her husband and eight children.
"This is our first hurricane," said Ruiz, 32, who moved with her family to Texas from Iowa a few months ago. "We didn't want to take any chances with that many kids at home."
Outside, school buses were lined up in case flooding made it necessary to take the storm refugees farther inland.
About 7,000 customers were without electricity, about half in Harlingen and others in Port Isabel and surrounding areas, said Larry Jones, spokesman for the utility AEP Texas.
Buddy Finch, a supervisor at AEP Texas' Port Isabel office, said the storm was much less than what they prepared for.
"We have not had many problems," Finch said. "I guess it probably cut us a break as far as damage or a direct hit. It's not a bad one for us. I'm sure Mexico is catching heck but we're OK. You feel for the people are south of us."
There were no immediate reports of property damage, said Jared Hockema, an emergency management spokesman.
While Texas was not in the direct path of the storm, radar showed heavy rain spreading across Brownsville and areas north of the city, with isolated showers scattered to the northeast. Meteorologists said 2 to 4 inches of rain could fall in the parched lower Rio Grande Valley.
At 9 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered just inland of Mexico's northeast coast, about 75 miles south-southwest of Brownsville. It was moving toward the west at 10 mph.
A hurricane warning remained in effect for about 40 miles of the lower Texas coast from the Mexico border to Port Mansfield, and a tropical storm warning extended from Port Mansfield to Baffin Bay. Flood and tornado watches were posted for most of South Texas through midday.
Among the evacuees were tourists who had moved hundreds of recreational vehicles off the beachside parks at Padre Island.
And some people had decided to skip the storm altogether, including Risa Jones and her husband of South Padre Island, who took their two children to San Antonio for an outing at SeaWorld.
"It's just better than sitting here and doing nothing inside and hoping for the best," said Jones, 24. "We just hope to come back to something."
For others, the rain, strong wind and huge waves the storm brought to the coast on Tuesday were just too much to pass up.
"It is amazing," said Marc Lambert, a tourist from New York who spent two hours boogie-boarding. "It is cool to see what Mother Nature can do."