Dozens rescued as floods follow heavy rains
Storms deluge Williamson, Travis; police order evacuations as San Gabriel River leaves its banks.
Authorities rescued dozens of people in Williamson and Travis counties early Saturday after thunderstorms hammered Central Texas, dropping nearly 10 inches of rain in some spots and causing flash floods, road closures and power outages.
Approximately 90 people were forced to evacuate the Rio de Colores wedding venue in Liberty Hill as waters rose to dangerous levels, officials said. Almost 30 were able to escape the building on their own, but at least 50 people needed to be rescued by local authorities after water trapped them inside, Williamson County spokeswoman Connie Odom said.
The Williamson County sheriff ’s office issued evacuation orders Saturday morning for people living on McShepherd Road along the San Gabriel River near Georgetown, and on County Road 129 and County Road 123 along Brushy Creek. More than 16 trailer homes also were evacuated in the Shady Oaks RV Park off Texas 29, east of Interstate 25 near Georgetown along the river.
“Some (residents) needed places to stay because they lost everything in the flood,” Odom said.
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody reported several water rescue calls in the county Saturday morning.
The San Gabriel River overflowed into the streets of Georgetown, cresting at 24.2 feet. Officials said the river rose to moderate flood levels before receding Saturday afternoon as flood warnings were canceled in the area. The river is typically about
3 feet in depth, according to the National Weather Service.
Storms knocked out power for hundreds of residents in the area, officials said. Oncor reported 212 customers without power in Round Rock and other areas in Williamson County on Saturday morning.
In Austin, first responders reported two water rescues with no serious injuries, officials said. The Austin Fire Department said Saturday morning it had rescued a female driver who was trapped in high water in the 10000 block of Gregg Lane in Manor.
A total of 92 low-water crossings were closed Saturday morning in the Austin area, including several in Round Rock.
Meteorologists said the heaviest rains were in Williamson County near Liberty Hill, Hutto and Georgetown, with rainfall estimates between 6 and 8 inches. Meteorologists said they also received reports of rain estimates as high as 9.88 inches in Hutto.
In Travis County, the heaviest rains fell near Pflugerville, with estimates from 5 to 6 inches of rain falling overnight, meteorologists said.
Heavy rains also lashed other areas across Texas, posing dangers for residents and first responders. In Dallas, a 23-year-old man drowned near the University of Texas at Arlington when floodwaters swept him away as he crossed a bridge. His body was recovered early Saturday.
Dallas Fire-Rescue officials said five police officers were trapped in high water as they tried to rescue a stranded motorist. Rescuers pulled the officers and motorist to safety before heading to help nine other people in a flooded home nearby.
By Saturday afternoon, overcast skies had mostly replaced the heavy rains in Central Texas.
The Fall Pecan Street Festival in downtown Austin continued as planned. At the University of Texas game against Texas Christian University, it was also business as usual. The low chance of rain Saturday afternoon allowed Longhorn fans to come out in force, with few rain jackets and ponchos scattered around the student section.
The dense clouds drove Aimee Low, a 22-year-old graduate student, to stay vigilant and bring her raincoat.
“This whole week it has not been supposed to rain according to my weather app, but I’ve gotten drenched all week, so I don’t trust my weather app,” Low said at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium while waiting for the game to start. “It looks like it’s going to rain, so I want to be prepared.”
Meteorologists said the Austin area has seen the worst of the rainfall as the front that hit the region has since moved east, though there is a chance for light rain Sunday. Rainfall chances are expected to rise again during the week.
“We do have another chance of heavy rain Wednesday and Thursday as a cold front moves through the region,” National Weather Service forecaster Brett Williams said. “A half-inch to 2 inches is possible.”
Williams said the location where the heaviest rains will fall depends on where the front might stall, over Williamson County or the Austin area.
Members of the Williamson County sheriff’s water rescue team check on cars stranded in water in the Blue Hole area of Liberty Hill early Saturday. Several rescues were carried out after powerful storms inundated the area.