Cen­tral Texas rains keep drought at bay

Re­gion soaked over 24 hours; thou­sands lose power in Wil­liamson.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Marty Toohey mtoohey@states­man.com

Mother Na­ture fi­nally popped Austin’s rain bub­ble.

More than 3 inches fell over much of the re­gion dur­ing a 24-hour win­dow that started late Sun­day, with a few places re­ceiv­ing as much as 7 inches. By early Mon­day af­ter­noon, Austin-Bergstrom In­ter­na­tional Air­port had nearly tripled the Aug. 7 record of 1.06 inches. So much rain fell that the Lower Colorado River Au­thor­ity briefly opened flood­gates in Llano and Bur­net coun­ties at Wirtz Dam on Lake LBJ and Star­cke Dam on Lake Mar­ble Falls to let ex­cess wa­ter flow down­stream.

The rain came from a storm sys­tem that be­gan form­ing in West Texas over the week­end be­fore sweep­ing east and dous­ing a broad swath of south Cen­tral Texas. The steady down­pour knocked out power to thou­sands of Wil­liamson County homes Mon­day, ap­pears to have drowned the drought that had crept into Cen­tral Texas, and re­deemed fore­cast­ers who had spent months warn­ing of storms that ended up pass­ing over Cen­tral Texas but skirted Austin as if the state cap­i­tal had con­structed some sort of rain shield. San An­to­nio was harder hit. t records Sun­day night with nearly 4 inches of rain­fall.

On Mon­day, nu­mer­ous roads were closed, tens of thou­sands of homes were with­out power, pub­lic safety crews con­ducted wa­ter res­cues, many parks were de­clared off-lim­its for the day, and homes in the Leon Val­ley sub­urb

were evac­u­ated.

One driver was res­cued from her SUV, only to be washed away when she tried to re­turn to it to re­trieve her keys, ac­cord­ing to San Anto- nio Ex­press-News re­ports.

The Austin metro area, by con­trast, was merely soaked, save for the Wil­liamson County out­ages. Round Rock res­i­dent Bryan Wise­man’s rain gauge showed nearly 5 inches fall­ing at his home.

Wil­liamson and Bur­net were among the coun­ties that lifted burn bans, though the

ones in Travis and Bas­trop re­mained in place.

Though rain is al­most al­ways a wel­come sight in a semi-arid re­gion, it might ex­ac­er­bate a long-stand­ing worry. The re­gion will even- tu­ally fall back into drought, and the more the rain­fall feeds the un­der­growth, the more fuel and po­ten­tial for cat­a­strophic fires is cre­ated when drought re­turns.

Even un­der rel­a­tively wet con­di­tions, flick­ing ciga- rette butts out the win­dow re­mains a bad habit that can start fires, ac­cord­ing to fire of­fi­cials.

Mon­day’s down­pours had re­lented by early af­ter­noon. Na­tional Weather Ser­vice fore­casts called for iso­lated show­ers overnight and into Tues­day in the Austin area, though Cen­tral Texas is done with the “big com­plex of storms” that doused it, weather ser- vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Aaron Tread­way said.

“The at­mos­phere is pretty worked over,” he said.

The rains also brought re­lief from the sti­fling heat that had set­tled in across the re­gion.

The tem­per­a­ture hit at least 97 de­grees every day in July and, save for the balmy back-to-back days of 89 and 95 de­grees last week, Au­gust had con­tin­ued the trend.

But at 2 p.m. Mon­day, the tem­per­a­ture at Austin’s Camp Mabry was 72 de­grees — not cold enough to put a sweater on the dog, but wet enough, per­haps, to dress the dog in a rain­coat.

MARK MATSON / FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Austin city work­ers clean up de­bris from a fallen limb on Shoal Creek Boule­vard near Wood­view Av­enue af­ter early morn­ing rains Mon­day. The limb took down a power line and blocked the street, caus­ing traf­fic to be di­verted. Mon­day’s down­pours had re­lented by early af­ter­noon.

JERRY LARA / SAN AN­TO­NIO EX­PRESS-NEWS

San An­to­nio Fire Depart­ment per­son­nel res­cue a man trapped on his sub­merged ve­hi­cle at a low wa­ter cross­ing Mon­day. Nu­mer­ous roads were closed in the city.

STEPHEN SPILLMAN / FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Brye Stormo rushes to work in the rain Mon­day near 51st Street and North La­mar Boule­vard. Fore­casts called for iso­lated show­ers overnight and into Tues­day in the Austin area.

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