Pictured: City workers John Ortiz, Robert Canales and Hector Ruiz get down and dirty as they use water pressure to clean out the once-stopped-up drains.

City crews spent Wednesday clearing drainage ditches

Personnel to watch Dean's path carefully

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

The City of Alice prepared Wednesday for the threat of Tropical Storm Erin, which decreased to a tropical depression as it made landfall Thursday morning northeast of Corpus Christi.

The city had several conference calls with emergency state officials Wednesday and the Emergency Operations Center was ready at the police station.

The EOC was set up with laptop computers, several phones, maps to track the would-be storm and emergency city members were on standby.

But Thursday morning, Alice residents woke up to light showers.

"This was a dry run for next week," said Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez about Hurricane Dean that is strengthening in the Atlantic Ocean.

City Manager Albert Uresti was concerned about possible rains causing more flooding in the city.

"Sounds like we are pretty much ready…but we are preparing for next week," he said.

A meeting of emergency personnel from the city and county was canceled this morning because Tropical Depression Erin was no longer a threat to the city.

For several weeks, the city has played a proactive part by cleaning out the ditches to allow for better water flow.

More than a dozen city workers and fire fighters worked throughout the day Wednesday pulling out brush and debris from the ditches. Several ditches, including one on Cecilia and Highway 281, and one on Magnolia and Aransas streets were excavated and cleaned.

"It's a major coordinated effort," said Debbie Harville, Parks and Recreation Director.

"It's critical that the brush and debris is pulled out of the ditches. Once we get the ditches clean, it is our goal to routinely maintain them…we don't want to be caught off-guard like we did May 26."

City officials said it has been years, possibly 15 years, since the ditches had been maintained. The City of Alice and Jim Wells County are not out of danger as heavy rains and storms are expected, and experts are watching out for Hurricane Dean.

"We view it not as a potential threat to Texas, but a threat," said Jack Cowley, a state emergency official Wednesday during a conference call with local officials.

Sand bags are available to residents at the recycling center.