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Game Wardens Urge Caution Around Water as Rains Continue Across North and Central Texas
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens are urging Texans to exercise extreme caution in low-lying areas, around lakes and reservoirs and at stream and river crossings as rain continues to fall across a broad swath of North and Central Texas today.
“There’s probably not enough caution tape in the world to mark all the areas people shouldn’t be in right now,” said TPWD Lt. Jennifer Kemp.
Flooding Could Continue Through Weekend
The National Weather Service has extended a flash flood watch for all of North Texas through Friday morning, and for south-Central Texas through 4 p.m. Friday. Chances of rains of 1-3 inches and localized downpours of 5 inches or more are forecast through Sunday.
“It’s basically going to all just run off,” said Bob Fogarty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in New Braunfels, Texas. “Any rivers or streams that are close to flooding probably are going to flood. The ground can’t take any more.”
Meteorologists say the late spring rains could make this the wettest June on record for North Texas, and year-to-date rainfall at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has already exceeded previous marks.
Game Wardens Performing Search-and-Rescue Duties
Beginning June 18, Texas game wardens responded with four-wheel-drive vehicles and an assortment of boats across North Texas. In two days, 17 game wardens worked 303 hours around Gainesville and Sherman, Texas, recovering the body of a 75-year-old man whose truck had been swept off a road and the body of a 2-year-old girl whose trailer home had been swept away by flood waters.
Overnight between June 26 and June 27, 13 game wardens responded to flooding in Hood and Parker Counties. More than a dozen people were rescued by boat from trees and houses.
Wednesday, five game wardens in Eastland County evacuated 24 residents of the Lake Leon Area. The same day nine game wardens were on duty in Marble Falls where they made two rescues. Search and rescue operations are continuing throughout the Hill Country.
Highland Lakes Closed
The Lower Colorado River Authority has opened floodgates on most of its Highland Lakes, and has closed Inks Lake and lakes Travis, Marble Falls and LBJ temporarily to recreational boating because significant debris make boating unsafe at this time.
Lake Buchanan remains open to recreational boating, but the LCRA advises extreme caution for boaters because of swift currents, debris and other navigational hazards.
LCRA plans to reevaluate the boating ban daily, and decide by 4 p.m. each day whether to lift the ban based on conditions of the lakes. While recreational boating is banned, contractors and property owners are permitted to navigate the lakes to perform needed work and to maintain property. See the LCRA web site for the latest information.
The City of Austin has closed recreational activities on Lake Austin, Town Lake and the Colorado River downstream of Longhorn Dam in the city limits.
Caution Urged for Guadalupe River Boaters
“I don’t think we have any reports of major flooding anywhere in our area,” said LaMarriol Smith , public information officer for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. “We have our phone line set up if someone wants to call regarding lake levels or river flows: (800) 413-4130 or (800) 413-5822. Anyone calling after hours can dial ext. 241.”
Mike Dussere, manager of the Water Oriented Recreation District of Comal County, said that with current flows, only experienced paddlers should attempt to navigate the upper Guadalupe River.
“We recommend you contact your favorite outfitter or the GBRA for current flows,” said Dussere. “Right now, below the dam, the river’s flowing about 1,100 cfs but it’s projected to drop into the floatable range, about 600 cfs. The Corps of Engineers could decide to release more water depending on rainfall and lake levels.”
Brazos River Flooding
“We currently have three gates open at Lake Possum Kingdom, releasing water at a rate of 30,500 cfs there,” said Brazos River Authority spokesperson Judi Pierce. “We have flooding conditions all the way down the Brazos to Glen Rose, where we are releasing water at a rate of 45,000 cfs from Lake Granbury. I can’t imagine anyone would consider getting on the river right now because it’s very, very dangerous.”
Pierce pointed out that tributaries of the Brazos River may continue to fill reservoirs and the stream itself for several days after rains have stopped.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that lake elevations are into the flood pools of most of their Texas reservoirs and many boat ramps, campgrounds and other facilities are closed.
“We’re advising folks to call ahead before visiting any of our lakes this weekend,” said Judy Marsicano, a spokesperson for the Corps’ Fort Worth District office.
Water Safety Tips
Game wardens warned that there are many ways for people to get into trouble in floodwaters.
“For some, it might just be a matter of where you live. If you get an evacuation order from the county, or even if you simply feel like you might be in danger, get out,” said Col. Pete Flores, TPWD Law Enforcement Division director. “Others may want to head down to the local lake or creek to see what the water’s doing. You may think you know how deep the water is or what the ground beneath the water looks like, but floods create washouts and move things around. Our advice: don’t wade into the water at all.”
Other dangers cited by game wardens include:
- Debris washed into area lakes (a particular danger for boaters);
- Displaced wildlife, including venomous snakes;
- High levels of bacteria in flood waters; and
- Dangerous currents in previously placid swimming holes.
“We’ve all heard ‘turn around, don’t drown’ when it comes to low-water crossings,” said Flores. “That’s no joke, and I can’t say strongly enough that people should not attempt to drive through water flowing over roadways. We’ve worked a number of these cases already this week.”
For game wardens in North and Central Texas, water safety has taken on new meaning since the drowning death of Game Warden Ty Patterson. Patterson and his partner were searching for a missing girl on the Paluxy River, then flooding, when their boat capsized.
“Saturday makes a month since we lost one of our own to the water,” said Kemp, who worked with Patterson. “We are all too familiar with the power of the water and its ability to take a life. That’s something that stays with us every day.”
On the Net:
- USACE Facility Closure Update: http://www.swf-wc.usace.army.mil/drought/drought.htm
- U.S. Geological Service website for real-time tracking of flood conditions: http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/?m=flood&w=map&r=tx
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