Residents Share Memories of Hurricane Beulah Aftermath

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RIO GRANDE CITY – In September 1967, Hurricane Beulah caused major flooding and 115 tornadoes leaving destruction behind in the Rio Grande Valley.

Rio Grande City residents came together during this 50-year anniversary to remember how the storm brought them all together. They set up a special exhibit at the Kelsey Bass Museum.

“We’re commemorating the unity of the people. The way people came together to help each other,” Diana Uribe with the museum said.

Initially a Category 5 storm, Beulah downgraded to Category 3 when it hit the Valley at Port Isabel, packing 130 mph winds.

Beulah was coming toward the Valley but then turned north, and Starr County residents thought the worst was over.

“But next day, the clouds made a U-turn and came straight to Starr County,” Frances Garza said.

Garza was a nurse and part of the team at an emergency ward set up at Fort Ringgold when the rains refused to stop.

“All the people that came in and we did our best to tend to their need. And the Lord was with us all the way. Everything went fine,” she said.

“And it affected communities on both sides of the border. In Camargo, in Comales, they were inundated. We had people brought in to Rio Grande for help by helicopter,” Uribe said.

Romeo Lopez was a teacher in Rio Grande City. His wife, Lydia, was in Roma with their two children.

“I could not go to Roma because Highway 83 was not conductive for us to go by car,” he said.

Bitsey Margo’s father, Pablo Saenz, was among the ham radio operators getting the information out.

“Out to the rest of the world for the first couple of days until we got communications,” Margo said.

They all agreed it was Dr. Mario Ramirez who brought the ultimate help to the area.

“He was instrumental in bringing help to us, from Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, UT Medical Center in Galveston, the Army Units from Fort Hood,” Uribe said.

President Lyndon B. Johnson came to assess the damages, along with then Governor John Connolly.

“Back in ’67, I had just turned 14 years old. I remember it like it was just yesterday. I was so scared I thought it was going to be the end of the world,” Dina Gutierrez said.