Springtime Floods in Central Texas

Austin, Texas is no stranger to flooding. I grew up in that area and I've experienced my fair share of Central Texas floods, many of which took place in the late Spring.

I remember the Memorial Day Flood of 1981 which sent the waters of Shoal Creek gushing through much of Austin. There was a music store on Lamar Boulevard that was gutted, in fact, pianos could be seen floating down the street. My dad was working as a firefighter during that flood and had to perform numerous water rescues.

Here's a look at Shoal Creek after flooding in October 2015

(Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)

Why Are There So Many Floods in Austin, San Antonio?

The geography of Austin and San Antonio allows slow-moving thunderstorms a chance to give the area a 'double-whammy'. Downpours moving in from the west dump heavy rainfall in the nearby Hill Country which is then channeled into the streams and rivers that feed into those cities (whammy one). Then, those storm cells eventually dump a second load of rain over the cities themselves (whammy two).

Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images
Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

Spring flooding in Austin has become so commonplace that some residents may be a little indifferent to the forecast of possible flash flooding. That being said, the forecast for this Saturday in the Austin/San Antonio area is concerning...very concerning.

What the Models Are Saying

Every forecast model I've looked at is showing high confidence of heavy rainfall throughout the day and evening on Saturday in Central Texas. Around half of those models are indicating that close to a foot of rain, or much more, could fall in less than 24 hours.

*The links to these weather models were accurate as of this posting at 5 pm on 5/9, the models may have changed since then.

The GFS weather model, which many consider being the gold standard in forecasting, is showing a swath from Austin to San Antonio and the adjacent Hill Country to receive 8 to 11 inches of rain, mostly on Saturday.

The Euro weather model, another highly reliable model, shows the brunt of the flooding to hit just to the south and southeast of Austin. The Lockhart/Bastrop area could be in line for 15+ inches of rain in less than a day.

The UKMO (United Kingdom Meteorological Office) is predicting the main target zone to be over the San Antonio area with upwards of 20 inches of rain possible.  Keep in mind, that's better than a foot and a half of rain in under 24 hours.

The GEM, Global Environmental Multiscale Model, is very much in line with the GFS Model, except the GEM is forecasting over a foot of rain to fall in some areas between Austin and San Antonio.

Let's Answer Some Questions

Will the Austin/San Antonio area get some very heavy downpours on Saturday?

  • That would be an emphatic YES from all sources I have checked. The National Weather Service believes that widespread amounts of 3+ inches will occur in Central Texas.

Will that same area see some of these epic one-day rainfall totals?

  • The answer to that question will, unfortunately, only be revealed whenever it does or does not happen. It's almost a guarantee that these weather models will change between now and Saturday, let's just hope it changes for the better.

How Bad Will It Get If These Huge Rainfall Totals Happen?

  • A half foot of rain falling over the course of 18 hours would be enough to cause significant flooding in portions of the Austin to San Antonio corridor. When you start talking more than that, possibly a LOT more than that, then you start talking about water rescues and life-threatening situations.
Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images
Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

Busy Weekend for Central Texas Sports

The University of Texas in Austin will be hosting the UIL State Track & Field Meet this Thursday through Saturday. I'm sure officials are already thinking about alternate plans for whatever the weather may bring on Saturday.

Likewise, there are a number of playoffs scheduled for Central Texas area baseball and softball teams. School officials should already be implementing plans to move those games to be played before Saturday. That may force some of the best-of-three series to become one-game series.

Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

If you live in a flood-prone area, or if you live near streams or creeks, please stay alert to the weather on Saturday. Sometimes it only takes minutes for a dry creek bed to become a raging torrent...and, if you see an armadillo struggling in the water, help a critter out.

Damage from Hurricane Ike

A look back at the damage along Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula from Hurricane Ike. The storm was a category 2 hurricane that brought damages in excess of $30 billion. All pictures are from Getty Images.






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