Flood threats continue through weekend
By LPR Staff
Barely a year has passed since the Blanco and San Marcos Rivers ripped through Central Texas, leaving scars not only on the land, but on the hearts and minds of resident throughout the region, in the historic Memorial Day Weekend flooding events.
Now, after one of the dampest springs on record in r
ecent history, weather experts are bracing for the possibility that it could happen again.
According to the Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management, the National Weather Service has increased rainfall forecasts for Caldwell County throughout this week. Current weather models suggest the potential for up to seven inches of rainfall, with isolated areas of 15 inches or more in some areas.
With ground that is already saturated and rivers and creeks flowing almost at capacity, the situation could create danger for Caldwell County residents on a moment’s notice, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey.
“Keep in mind, just one or two inches of rain can and will cause flash flooding,” Ritchey told the Caldwell County Commissioners Court last week. That threat was evidenced by the fact that, only 10 days ago, heavy rains triggered flash flooding throughout the County, resulting in more that 50 road closures, and causing the need for at least three swift-water rescues.
“A slow moving upper low will enhance the storm threats and with the rain that has already fallen the past week,” the National Weather Service warned on Tuesday. “Heightened awareness from all South Central Texas residents and partners is very important. The weather pattern will not change much all the way through the end of the week.”
That pattern brought a severe storm and wind event into Caldwell County on Tuesday afternoon. Though no flash flooding was reported on Tuesday, several individuals reported seeing cloud rotation, a potential warning of tornadic activity, and winds in excess of 50 miles per hour.
While high winds and hail remain possible through the week, those are not the primary concern regarding the weather event, the National Weather Service said.
“Several locations may experience major flooding with flood waters capable of causing rivers and tributaries to overflow their banks in several places,” experts warn. “Small streams, creeks, canals, and ditches become dangerous rivers with flood waters spreading well away from the banks. Widespread inundation of both primary and secondary roads with some long-term closures possible. Streets and parking lots become rivers of moving water. Flood waters may prompt many evacuations and road closures with potentially numerous homes and businesses threatened. Rescues may be necessary.”
Ritchey warned Caldwell County residents to take special care to monitor the weather, and to register their cell phones for emergency alerts at www.WarnCentralTexas.org.
Of primary concern, Ritchey said, is the likelihood that surging water will overtake bridges and roadways, causing unseen damage under the water, and possibly inundating vehicles.
“We can’t stress enough how important it is for people to remember that the barricades are out for a reason,” he said last week. “Do not take risks by driving through flooded roads, and never drive around barricaded roadways.”
The Texas Department of Transportation warned that it is illegal to remove barricades blocking low-water crossings, and that anyone doing so could face fines and penalties up to $2,000 and two years in jail. Additional dangers, they warn, come from not knowing what dangers lie in the road ahead.
As an example, the Department nodded to the 11 drivers in the last week who have passed barricades on Highway 21 in the Niederwald area, where a washed out bridge has closed that highway to be closed. Each of those 11 drivers have gotten stuck on the bridge, at the Caldwell/Hays County line, causing damage to their vehicles and dangers to themselves, other drivers and rescue crews.
As of Tuesday, the Blanco River watershed had received less than an inch of rain, a vast difference from last year’s 10 inches that fell overnight on Memorial Day. However, if rainfalls increase significantly in the watershed area as a result of this week’s possible storm events, the Blanco, though not yet running at official flood stages, could rise quickly, bringing with it the potential for another San Marcos River surge, as well.
The Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management offers up-to-date information online, with the Office of Emergency Management being found on Facebook, and on Twitter at “@CCTXOEM.”
The Post-Register staff will also continue to monitor the situation, and provide updates through Facebook, Twitter, and www.post-register.com.