Buckets of rain but not a buster – Lang: 2016 has seen lots of precip but no big one

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Austin’s gotten a lot of rain this year and is within about 5 inches of the yearly precipitation record.

But it hasn’t gotten the big one.

With more rain in the forecast, Mayor Tom Stiehm asked Public Works Director Steven Lang during Monday’s Austin City Council meeting about why Austin hasn’t seen more serious flooding this year as the City Council discussed upcoming dam inspections.

Email newsletter signup

Austin has received 36.83 inches of rain to date at the Austin Waste Water Treatment Facility, and the record is 40.87 inches in 1993, according to The National Weather Service.

Stiehm asked if Austin’s various flood mitigation efforts like the North Main Street flood wall, flood buyouts through the local options sales tax and the work of the Cedar River Watershed District have prevented more serious flooding this year or if Austin’s just gotten lucky.

Steven Lang

Steven Lang

But Lang said Austin hasn’t seen the type of storm that raises the rivers and puts those mitigation efforts to the test.

“We’re fortunate,” Lang said. “Our rain events haven’t been what I would call big bucket-buster rain events. They’ve been 2 inches of really hard rain, which has caused a lot of street flooding and localized flooding, but that doesn’t cause the huge rises to the river like a 6-, 7-, 9-inch rain will.”

Austin’s last large flood was 2010, and Stiehm noted Austin saw flood events every four years, so it seems like the community may be due.

The discussion came up because Austin’s dams are going to be inspected for the first time since after the 2000 flood. SEH will inspect the Fourth Avenue Northeast and East Side Lake dams for $12,850.

Lang said dam inspections typically come up every 10 to 15 years.

Another round of rain is expected to move into Austin overnight and heavy rains and flash flooding are possible. Hail is also possible.

Another round of rain is expected Wednesday afternoon and night, and storms are possible again Thursday through Monday.

The National Weather Service warned some of the rains could be heavy enough to raise river levels.