HARLINGEN, Texas — Residents across South Texas slogged through knee-deep muddy waters, tiptoed around downed power lines and dug through debris Thursday, but were thankful that Hurricane Dolly didn't pack the wallop they had feared.
Downed power lines remained the greatest danger, and South Texas officials urged people to stay home one more day "unless it's life or death." One person in Matamoros, Mexico, was electrocuted after walking past a power line on the ground.
Residents picked up the pieces of their houses and businesses. But as dry skies spread over the region, they were relieved that the storm didn't take many lives.
Even so, there will be substantial cleanup: President Bush declared 15 counties in South Texas a disaster area to release federal funding to them, and insurance estimators put the losses at $750-million.
By Thursday afternoon, with the storm's maximum sustained winds blowing around 35 mph, forecasters downgraded Dolly to a tropical depression.
Rain and wind from Dolly probably doomed much of the cotton crop in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. About 92,000 acres of cotton in the region was awaiting harvest, but driving rains and high winds knocked bolls to the ground, making them unsalvageable, Texas Agri Life Extension agent Rod Santa Ana said. Sorghum acres also could be doomed, he said.
After crashing ashore on South Padre Island midday Wednesday, Dolly meandered north. Officials had feared the Rio Grande levees would breach, but the storm veered from its predicted path and they held strong.
Steve McCraw, the state's homeland security director, said more than a quarter-million people in the region were still without power late Thursday.