October was already a wet month before the deluge that engulfed most of the central and west Texas area on October 16th. By the time the rains had subsided around October 19th, some 18 Texas counties had been declared disaster areas.
On October 16th, Governor Gregg Abbott released a disaster declaration:
“I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the severe weather and prolonged flooding event that began on October 7, 2018, has caused widespread and severe property damage, and threatens loss of life, Bastrop, Burnet, Colorado, Fayette, Hood, Jim Wells, Kerr, Kimble, La Salle, Live Oak, Llano, Mason, McMullen, Nueces, Real, San Patricio, Travis, and Williamson Counties.”
The ground had already been near saturation level from recent, sporadic rain showers over the previous week when the skies were uncorked and rain fell continuously for over 24 hours. No one was spared from Winters to San Angelo or from Wingate to Coleman. On Friday, October 12th, the Winters Blizzards football game against Hawley was played in a constant downpour. At one point the game had to be suspended for 30 minutes due to lightning. Those bands of rain stopped just north of Ballinger for a few hours that night but struck Ballinger and other areas of Runnels County when they did hit before daylight on Saturday morning. There was a single vehicle rollover collision about ½ miles south of Ballinger on Highway 67 at the height of the storms. There was only one occupant who sustained minor injuries.
Some farms between Ballinger and Miles had over 10 inches of rain in 3 days. Alvin Dunn, owner of the Los Arroyos ranch said that they received 8.4 inches of rain in that time period. Many of the cotton fields along the cotton corridor from Abilene down to San Angelo and Eden were at least partly submerged, more akin to marshes than farmland. The floodwater moved quickly and with a ferocity as it washed out the Kingsland bridge on FM 2900 on October 16th. The floodwaters took the lives of at least 2 people near Junction. Sonora had already been facing a long journey due to flooding that they received around September 21st and the return of the tempest made an already bad situation even worse. Many of the towns that had sent relief to Sonora now found themselves in the same situation, massive flooding and an already taxed system of first responders from Texas Parks & Wildlife game wardens to the various county sheriff’s departments and city police departments. Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft from many agencies flew over flooded rivers and towns searching for stranded or missing people. Two men in Llano were rescued in an SUV that had become submerged on a street that had washed away.
On Thursday afternoon, October 18th, Elm creek in Ballinger was discharging over 4,000’ cubic feet per second. On October 13th the gauge height of Elm creek was just under 5.5’. Over the next five days the gauge height increased to almost 6.5’. The Colorado river at Ballinger was discharging 6,000 cfs at a gauge height of 25’.
On October 16th the Llano river was discharging 30,000 cubic feet of water per second. The river rose quickly and dramatically from a gauge height of less than 5’ on October 14th to a gauge height of over 40’ on October 16th. There was little to no warning that the river was rising so quickly and it caught many people by surprise. It was said that the Llano river floodwaters had spread out to over ½ mile from the river itself.
By Thursday the 18th the river had dropped over 13’ but more rain was expected to move in. The San Saba area had received over 8.5 inches of rain in 4 days. The river was full at 20’, hit flood stage at 24’ and at one point was over 30’.
At one point the Llano, San Saba and Colorado rivers were discharging between 10,000 cfs and 40,000 cfs from Brady to Llano, San Saba to Goldthwaite and all the way down to Lake Buchanan. From Austin the LCRA Colorado River was discharging 30,000 cfs and all the way to the coast every dam was discharging between 8,000 cfs and 30,000 cfs.
One week prior to the rains Lake Nasworthy was 81.8% full with 8,358 acre feet. After the rain, the lake was 89.4% full and 9,112 acre feet.
Lake Ivie experienced a significant event due to the rains. The lake went from 15.5% full to 33.4% full. It had 85,985 acre feet that increase to 185,075 in the one week period of the rains. As of Sunday, October 21st, water was still flowing into Ivie at the rate of approximately 9,000 gallons per day.
Lake OC Fisher only experienced an increase of 3,000 acre-feet and went from 12.1% full to 14.3%.
The weekend of the 20th and 21st gave people a chance to catch their collective breath and start surveying the damage. There was barely a trace of rain on Saturday and Sunday yielded clear skies for the most part. There was not a moment of time to waste as more rain is expected to move in during the middle of the week of the 21st.
All stats were compiled from the USGS, LCRA and Water Data For Texas websites.