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Flood early warning systems provide Hill Country residents with real-time data Posted on June 09, 2021

 

Transcript

Kathleen Jackson – Board Member, Texas Water Development Board  

Texas is in perpetual drought, punctuated by times of flood. So, it's so important that throughout our state we have early warning systems so that families and communities know what's coming and they can prepare.  

David Mauk – General Manager, Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District

We actually are in Flash Flood Alley. And before Hurricane Harvey, the record was the 1978 flood here in Bandera County, where we had unconfirmed reports of 50 inches of rain in the western end of the county. I was told that this river here, which is basically a stream, had the flow of the Mississippi during that flood.   

Traditionally, first responders had to go out and position themselves at some of the low water crossings to see the water levels so they can understand when it was time to shut down that low water crossing. Now, with the predictive model of this project, they'll have a better understanding. "Hey, when this hits a certain level, that already needs to be shut down."

We saw a need for a flood early warning system so we can get people and property out of harm's way before the floodwaters come. When we saw that problem, we went to the USGS, and they brought us a solution. [The] Water Development Board gave us the funding to get it done. 

Kathleen Jackson – Board Member, Texas Water Development Board 

In Bandera, they're using real-time streamflow gages in conjunction with flood inundation mapping to give emergency management the type of information they need to help the public to know when flooding is occurring ahead of time and be able to get out of harm's way. The flood inundation mapping are visual so that as you look at them, it's easy to see where the flooding will occur during different rainfall events. 

William R. Mitchell – County Judge, Uvalde County   

Throughout history, Uvalde County has had some tremendously great floods. Any given weekend, during the summer months from Memorial Day to Labor Day, that period of time, our county population truly doubles because of the influx of people that come into the county, to the rivers, to enjoy the rivers. And we want them to come, but we want them to stay safe as well. In 2016, Uvalde County made an application to the Texas Water Development Board for a flood early warning system. We got it online in February 2018.

We have all this technology that we're depending upon to help notify people in order to save lives. And if we don't have a good infrastructure, if we don't have a good tower that's dependable, that data may not be transmitted properly. The site that we're using right now on Kennedy Mountain, number one, it's old. Also, there's a tremendous amount of other agencies, other firms, transmitting off that mountain. And we needed to rebuild the tower because of the aging factor. And number two, we thought, well, if we're going to do that, let's look at a spot that we can isolate ourselves so that our alert system could be more dependable. 

The Flood Infrastructure Fund was a tremendous fit for the tower. It just, kind of, pieced the whole thing together.

Kathleen Jackson – Board Member, Texas Water Development Board

So, a great example of using the resources of the Texas Water Development Board, the Flood Infrastructure Fund, to being able to pull together technology and the actions of emergency management to protect the public.  

William R. Mitchell – County Judge, Uvalde County  

The reason we invest in flood mitigation is simply to save lives and property.     

Soundbites

Flood early warning systems in Uvalde County

William R. Mitchell – Judge, Uvalde County

"There's nine sites in Uvalde County. Three of our sites are in Real County, which is just to our north, and one site's in Bandera County, which is also just to our north. The sites were selected by historical rainfall. The one in Bandera County, right above the city or the community of Utopia--several hundred people live in Utopia. So, there's no sense in putting that rain detection gage in Utopia. You want it upstream. So, we go upstream to where we feel like—if it starts raining up here—it will give us enough notice to allow enough time to notify the citizens of Utopia. Hey, we've got a problem. Same thing's true about the Garner State Park area. There's a site, actually, in Real County about half a mile beyond the county line. But it's far enough from Garner State Park and Happy Hollow and these other outfitters that have a tremendous amount of people visiting them. It gives us enough time to monitor that and also alert them."

Flood early warning systems in Bandera County

David Mauk – General Manager, Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District

"Traditionally, first responders had to go out and position themselves at some of the low-water crossings to see the water levels so they could understand when it was time to shut down that low-water crossing. Now, with the predictive model of this project, they'll have a better understanding of, hey, when this hits a certain level, that already needs to be shut down. So, they can shut it down before it floods and it'll keep that deputy out of harm's way."

The importance of protecting lives during a flood event

David Mauk – General Manager, Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District

"This is a half-million-dollar project, but in a flood event, you can potentially lose quite a bit more property than that. And a human life--what's the cost? How do you measure that? This project inevitably will save lives. It's predictive; it'll save property. We won't know who it saved because it warns people. It gets them out of harm's way. We are in Flash Flood Alley. Before Harvey, it was us in 1978. And the Hill Country, as a whole, is in Flash Flood Alley. And when you get a flood event in the Hill Country, it's a contact sport. And you need to be able to get the information out and warn them and get them out of the way. So, the money is well spent. It's going to protect people. It's going to protect property. And I find that there's no higher calling, to me, when you're dealing with government than when you're actually looking at protecting the population, the taxpayers."

This article is posted in Flood / Financial Assistance .