MATAMOROS, Mexico – The sprawling remains of Hurricane Alex drenched much of northern Mexico on Thursday, paralyzing the major city of Monterrey. At least two people were killed when dry rivers roared to life and highways turned into rushing streams.

Hurricane Alex ripped off roofs, caused severe flooding and forced thousands of people to flee coastal fishing villages as it hit land Wednesday evening in the border state of Tamaulipas. Power and telephone service were down in several towns and cities.

The storm weakened to a tropical storm Thursday as it moved west to Nuevo Leon state, but it still caused major problems.

The dry Santa Catalina river that cuts through Monterrey roared to life, sweeping away cars and parts of rickety wooden homes built along its path.

One man died when he was caught by a torrent of water along a six-lane highway, city Civil Protection director Pedro Trevino told Televisa Monterrey network. Another man was found drowned by the side of a creek.

Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz told the Televisa he had ordered all schools closed and appealed for people to stay home from all but essential jobs. The U.S. Consulate in Monterrey closed due to the storm.

De la Cruz said Alex had already dumped 16 inches of rain in some areas.

Schools were also canceled in Tamaulipas state, where cleanup efforts began and flood waters started subsiding.

Crews swept up debris in Matamoros, a city across the border from Brownsville, Texas. Emergency officials still had to use boats to survey the damage in some neighborhoods.

Most of the 2,500 people who stayed in shelters overnight boarded buses back to their coastal villages Thursday after lining up for breakfast served by marines.

“The city is practically under water,” said Saul Hernandez Bautista. “But the most important thing is that there was no loss of life. We took important and opportune measures to evacuate people.”

Winds knocked down hundreds of trees, utility poles and traffic lights in the Matamoros area and farther south along Mexico’s northern Gulf coast. Power and telephone service was out in San Fernando, a town near where Alex made landfall.