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Published Jul. 8, 2010

Associated Press

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico - Reservoirs along the U.S.-Mexico border rose to their highest levels in decades after days of drenching rain, forcing officials to close two border bridges Wednesday, dump water into flooded rivers and evacuate tens of thousands from homes, with yet another storm on the way.

The dramatic rise of the Rio Grande caused by Hurricane Alex and continuing rains forced the closure of one major border crossing between downtown Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and another crossing known as the Colombia Bridge, about 20 miles upriver.

Officials evacuated the flood-threatened Vega Verde subdivision in Del Rio, Texas, about 110 miles upstream from Laredo, while high waters in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila have already damaged some 10,000 homes - many swamped in waist-deep water.

"That means there are 40,000 people who don't have any place to sleep," Gov. Humberto Moreira told the Televisa network Wednesday.

To the southeast, Mexican officials evacuated nearly 18,000 people from houses in Ciudad Anahuac for fear that water would overflow the Venustiano Carranza dam and threaten lives.

The U.S. National Weather Service said a new storm was likely to make its way across the Gulf of Mexico and hit the region within a day or two.

In Laredo, city spokeswoman Xochitl Mora said officials have urged 3,000 homeowners in low-lying areas to leave before the Rio Grande crested.

Bridge One was closed as a precaution with the water expected to rise as high as 43 feet late today - high enough to top the bridge, Mora said. About 11,000 pedestrians and 13,000 vehicles use the downtown bridge daily.

A second bridge into the northwestern Laredo was also being closed to traffic before the river crests. The other two Laredo bridges, including the heavily used World Trade Bridge, were expected to remain open.