Texas river expected to crest at record level Tuesday

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FORT WORTH, Texas — Residents of some rural southeast Texas counties braced for more flooding along a river that is expected to crest at a record level just two years after it had run dry in places because of drought.

National Weather Service meteorologists predicted the Brazos River would crest at 53.5 feet by midday Tuesday in Fort Bend County, three feet above the previous record and topping a 1994 flood that caused extensive damage.

During four days of torrential rain, six people died in floods along the Brazos, which runs from New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico. A Brazos River Authority map shows all 11 of the reservoirs fed by the Brazos at 95 to 100 percent capacity.

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Four of the six dead were recovered in Washington County, located between Austin and Houston, County Judge John Brieden said. Lake Somerville, one of the Brazos reservoirs, was “gushing uncontrollably” over the spillway, threatening people downriver, he said.

About 40 people were rescued from late Sunday to Monday from homes in a low-lying neighborhood flooded with up to three feet of water in Simonton, a town in Fort Bend County with about 800 residents. Aerial photos taken Sunday showed large swaths of the county under water.

The county had set up a pumping system to divert the water from the neighborhood, which sits on a flood plain. But the water levels overpowered the system, according to Beth Wolf, a county spokeswoman.

Wolf said any additional rain in southeast Texas would be a problem.

“The ditches are full, the river’s high, there’s nowhere else for that water to go,” she said.

Further south in Rosenberg, about 150 households had been evacuated by Monday, and city officials were coordinating with the county’s office of emergency management to have rescue boats in place, according to spokeswoman Jenny Pavlovich. In neighboring Richmond, a voluntary evacuation order was in place.

In Central Texas, a woman died Monday night in Austin when she was trapped in rushing water while tubing down a creek, a death an official blamed at least in part on recent heavy rains.