AUSTIN - Hurricane Dolly hit the Texas coast at South Padre Island on July 22, causing wind damage, power outages and flooding that affected an estimated 1.5 million people.
Levees along the Rio Grande withstood rains of up to 12 inches that pelted the region.
Gov. Rick Perry “pre-deployed” a wide range of state agencies and other aid-providing groups to South Texas communities before the hurricane made landfall.
On July 23 the governor requested a disaster declaration from President George W. Bush. U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn backed Perry up by asking the president to expedite assistance from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On July 24, Bush signed a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration covering Aransas, Bexar, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria and Willacy counties.
Dolly weakened to a tropical depression on July 24, but dumped heavy rains on Laredo and Eagle Pass on its way west.
An early estimate of property and infrastructure damages was $750 million.
Grand jury indicts ranch suspects
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on July 22 announced the Schleicher County grand jury had that day issued indictments containing nine counts of sexual assault, bigamy and related charges against six suspects associated with the Yearning For Zion ranch compound near Eldorado.
Warren Jeffs, leader of the polygamist sect that occupies the ranch, was charged with sexually assaulting a child, a first-degree felony. Jeffs is incarcerated in Arizona and awaiting trial on separate charges.
Also indicted were four other suspects charged with felony sexual assault of girls under age 17. One of the four suspects was charged with bigamy. Yet another suspect was charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse.
The indictments are part of a criminal investigation combining the efforts of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers, 51st Judicial District Attorney Steve Lupton, and Richard B. Roper, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas. The state has not made public the names of the suspects other than Jeffs.
In early April, after hearing allegations of child abuse at the ranch, a San Angelo state district judge ordered law enforcement and state agency personnel to take custody of more than 400 children who resided on the 1,700-acre property.
Nearly two months later, Judge Barbara Walther rescinded her order after an Austin state appellate court and the Texas Supreme Court found insufficient evidence to merit state intervention at the level implemented.
The children soon after were returned to their parents.
New secretary of state is named
Gov. Perry on July 23 named Esperanza “Hope” Andrade of San Antonio as Texas’ 107th secretary of state.
The secretary serves as the state’s chief elections officer, the governor’s liaison on border and Mexican affairs and Texas’ chief protocol officer for state and international matters.
In 2003, Perry appointed Andrade to the Texas Transportation Commission, the body that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation.
Andrade succeeds Phil Wilson, who served from July 1, 2007, to July 6, 2008. Wilson resigned to accept a position with Luminant, a Dallas-based energy company.
Clothing tax holiday coming up
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs reminds shoppers they will get a break from state and local sales taxes Aug. 15-17 in the annual sales tax holiday.
A law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2007 exempts most clothing and footwear priced under $100 from sales and use taxes. Backpacks under $100 and used by elementary and secondary students also are exempt. Not included are luggage, briefcases, athletic, duffle or gym bags, computer bags, purses or framed backpacks.
State executes third prisoner
Derrick Sonnier, 40, was executed by lethal injection on July 23 for the 1991 murder of a woman and her 2-year-old son. Sonnier was the third Texas death row inmate to be executed in the current year. The state of Texas also executed convicted murderers Carlton Turner, 29, on July 10 and Karl Chamberlain, 37, on June 11.