Valley Man Faces $1200 Towing Fee for Flood-Stranded Car

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WESLACO – Streets are drivable now, but that wasn't the case in the Mid-Valley Tuesday night.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke with one driver who abandoned his car on Expressway 83 in Weslaco.

When he went back to get it in the morning, he was surprised to find it wasn't there. As he told us, that wasn't his only surprise. 

Multiple vehicles were towed under orders of the state highway patrol. The prices varied greatly.

Aurelio Puente's car ended up in a tow yard in Donna after the previous night's storm.

Puente said he was on the expressway driving home when he was caught in the rain.

"I was coming in from McAllen toward Weslaco. The exits were full of water, and I couldn't get down. I left the car on the shoulder of the expressway," explained Puente.

He didn't want to drive through the flooded exit. Puente parked on the shoulder near the Westgate exit and walked the short distance home.

After a couple of hours, he returned and found out his car was taken away.

"DPS ordered the cars be picked up from the expressway," he said. 

The Department of Public Safety tells us nine cars were towed under their direction. They say any peace officer can remove a vehicle if it's a hazard or interferes with normal operations.

Puente expected to pay the tow truck company.

"A regular price would've been like $250 or $300 dollars, but not so much," he said.  

CHANNEL 5 NEWS obtained emails from others whose cars were also towed. The lowest charge we received was $450; the highest was Puente's at $1,200. He negotiated it down to about $940.

Puente questions that fee. We went to the business but the owner wasn't there. We left our phone number but have yet to receive a callback. 

If the fee doesn't get paid within a certain time, there are greater consequences.

"The car stays there, and after 40 days they can sell it," Puente said. 

Puente says his daughter uses this car to get to work. He's looking for a way to get the car out. He's also hoping the source of the problem gets repaired.

"The city should fix the problem with the water that accumulates at the expressway exits. Every time it rains, they always get full of water," he said. 

He explained if he knew the charge was going to be so high, he would have reconsidered driving through the flooded exit. 

First responders want the community to avoid flooded areas – turn around don't drown.

They also advise to check weather reports and adjust your route before you drive out. 

If you're in a situation where you have to leave your car behind, South Padre Island Police Chief Randy Smith advises the public to call police dispatch.

Leave your name and license plate number and let them know you intend to retrieve your vehicle when the rain subsides. 

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS there's no cap on wrecker fees here in Texas. However, the business has to have a fee schedule posted and the fee that the car owner was charged should match the fee schedule.

A fee schedule shows how much is charged for each service.

Puente received extra fees for "special equipment," winching fee and extra labor, in addition to the regular tow price. 

If there is no fee schedule posted or if they are not provided with one, the car owner can file a complaint with TDLR online.

Consumers can also file a complaint with the Texas Attorney General's Office by visiting their website.

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