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Bret's Bluster Fades

Hurricane Bret closed the international bridges in Laredo, Texas, more effectively than any breach of the NAFTA treaty, reports Correspondent Charles Hadlock of CBS affiliate KHOU-TV in Houston.

Now, Bret - once a powerful huricane - is a tropical disturbance that caused a major disruption of international trade. Three of the bridges had been closed since 5:00 p.m., local time, Monday, and officials in the U.S. and Mexico both agreed to close them for fear of high winds and heavy rains. The closings stranded people on both sides of the border.

The bridges account for 30 percent of the international trade exports from the United States into Mexico, so closing them was a major decision. They have been re-opened to car traffic, and trucks were expected to follow shortly.

The remnants of Hurricane Bret sloshed across southern Texas, soaking the region with up to a foot of rain and sending about 3,500 people to higher ground along the U.S.-Mexico border. The most powerful hurricane to strike Texas in 20 years unwound from 125 mph at the coast to 40 mph winds on Monday during its inland trek toward the Rio Grande.

Heavy rains that washed over the area were blamed for a Monday crash in which four people died.

Hurricane Bret : Photo Essay
Winds over 100 mph hit the Texas coast
A whole row of potentially dangerous weather systems are stretching from the Caribbean all the way across the Atlantic to the West African coast, where hurricanes are born. Storms are brewing all over the map, says Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The beginning of this year's hurricane season bears many resemblances to the beginning of last year's hurricane season, he says. The kickoff this year was Bret, and now there is a siege of storms starting up in the middle of August. "So we'll have to see if it works out to be [like last year,]" explains Jarell. "I hope it doesn't."

One cannot accurately predict storm patterns more than three or four days in advance.

Tuesday marks the anniversary of Hurricane Andrew's initial strike against Florida, and Jarrell says that even small storms tend to make citizens a little jumpy.

"It makes the phone start ringing," he says. "You get the idea that we're all pretty tense still down here."

Texans are breathing a sigh of relief after dodging Hurricane Bret's fury. But the storm did cause property damage and power outages in areas around Corpus Christi. Seven Texas counties have been declared disaster areas.

In the end, the hurricane was more nuisance than nightmare, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts. Sunday night, it appeared Bret could have been the "big one." A category four storm, it threatened the south Texas coast with winds of up to 140 miles per hour. But by daybreak, Bret hobbled across seven counties, doing the most damage where the fewest people lived.

South Texas was prepared and proud of it. Sunday night, the local hotels required all quests to wear body tags, just in case. Now shades and a surfboard seem more appropriate.

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Understanding Hurricanes:
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"I might as well go out and do a little playing on the back side of the storm," a surfer said, heading for the beach.

Those who doubt the forecasters should never question history. A century ago, a hurricane killed 8,000 in Galveston, and old timers say Texas is due.

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