Heavy rain leads to road, waterway closures in Austin

Megan Menchaca

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a state disaster declaration Tuesday evening for Travis County and 17 other counties because of heavy rainfall, which also caused several minor road closures and all Austin waterways.

Barton Springs Pool, the Barton Creek greenbelt, Lady Bird Lake and parts of Lake Austin and the Colorado River were all closed by the Austin Fire Department due to dangerous conditions. The closure began at noon on Tuesday and is effective for 48 hours.

“These conditions have created high and swift waters, which combined with debris, has made recreational, commercial and navigational use of all waterways including all creeks within the City of Austin unsafe,” interim AFD Chief Thomas Dodds said in a statement.

According to ATX Floods, more than 200 low water crossings throughout Central Texas had closed on Tuesday. Paul Yura, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said although the most serious rainfall is happening west of Austin, the increased rainfall in central Austin is still causing low water crossings to flood.

“Even though the biggest threat is still over those areas out there by Llano and Fredericksburg, there still needs to be caution especially across the Austin area … because of the how saturated the ground is,” Yura said. “At this point, 1 to 3 inches of rain could cause significant problems across much of the area.”

More than 10 inches of rain also flooded the Llano River near areas west of Austin, including in Kingsland, Fredericksburg and Marble Falls. David Maidment, a civil engineering professor at UT, said the flooding in these areas had not been this high for decades.

“We don’t have as much of a serious flooding situation in central Austin (compared to west of Austin),” Maidment said. “While people still need to stay alert, conditions are much more stable here. But people near the flooding need to immediately shelter in place and stay inside.”

While Austin only experienced 1 to 2 inches of rain on Tuesday, Yura said Austin drivers should still use extreme caution while driving or avoid driving altogether because of dangerous roads.

“If you don’t have to be outside and driving in Austin, do not drive — not only for the rest of the day but over the next several days,” Yura said. “If you can postpone your travel plans, postpone them. Stay off the roads as best you can because there are going to be a lot of flooded roads.”