Hurricane Dolly made landfall just north of Brownsville, Texas as a Category Two storm with winds more than 160 kilometers per hour and heavy rains. Although Dolly passed over some oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane had minimal impact on energy production. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Houston.
Strong winds and rain are pummeling the Brownsville area and the Mexican city of Matamoros to the south, but there has been no major damage reported from the storm. The hurricane is having a widespread effect over a much larger area, however, bringing heavy waves and rain to areas as far away as Galveston.
Initial damage reports from South Padre Island and the city of Port Isabel, north of Brownsville, indicate some roofs have been torn off buildings and many streets are flooded. Officials evacuated most people from those areas that were expected to be close to the eye of the storm, but some residents and tourists on South Padre island chose to stay put.
Tourist Tracy Davis spoke to reporters a few hours before the hurricane arrived onshore.
"I expect it will get worse," she said. "I expect to see higher winds, a higher tide over the next couple of hours. That is when it is really going to be interesting."
Weather experts warn that even people far from the Brownsville area could feel the impact of the hurricane. They say tornadoes spawned by the big storm system could strike communities a hundred kilometers away. Weather radar picked up a tornado north of the town of Harlingen hours before Hurricane Dolly made landfall. Harlingen is more than 30 kilometers inland.
Emergency planners also say the hurricane could cause major flooding much farther inland as it passes in over land and weakens.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has declared 14 Texas counties disaster areas in anticipation of the storm's impact so that federal funds will be available as needed in areas where damage is severe. The governor mobilized National Guard troops and established emergency centers in various cities outside the immediate storm zone.
San Antonio is serving as the main emergency supply center and officials there say they are prepared to move equipment and relief supplies to where they are needed as soon as they can travel into the affected zone.
The governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, Eugenio Hernandez, has taken similar steps to protect people living in the path of the hurricane's wind and rain. He has established shelters for 23,000 people in the area.
Oil prices moved higher earlier this week as traders worried about possible effects on the oil and gas industry's facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, but companies operating in the area say there has been minimal impact from the hurricane. No major disruption of oil production is expected.