CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Several days of soaking rain prompted floodgate operations May 26, temporarily closed city streets, county roadways and a golf course as well as resulted in one swiftwater rescue, officials say.
Unlike the devastation of flooding in Blanco and Hays counties, the Highland Lakes area dodged much of the severity of runoff from storm activity May 23 through Memorial Day, May 25.
Catastrophic flooding in Hays County in the Wimberley area has resulted in at least one confirmed death, about 30 people unaccounted for and more than a 1,000 displaced. Hays County officials say some of the unaccounted might be staying elsewhere. They do fear at least 12 are missing and were swept away in the flooding, including eight people who were spending the Memorial Day weekend at a vacation home on the Blanco River.
State officials confirmed a second Central Texas person died as a result of flooding in Caldwell County.
Closer to home in Burnet and Llano counties, the Lower Colorado River Authority opened floodgates May 26 at Wirtz Dam and Max Starcke Dam to pass inflows from lakes LBJ and Marble Falls, the Llano River and Sandy Creek downstream, officials said.
No floodgate operations were planned at Lake Buchanan.
During the height of the storm in Burnet and Llano counties, law enforcement and emergency crews temporarily closed roadways as rising water poured into creeks and spilled into crossings and some neighborhoods.
“We started closing low-water crossings around 1:45 p.m. (on Memorial Day),” said Horseshoe Bay Assistant Police Chief Rocky Wardlow.
The community has 22 crossings.
“We closed all of them. We started opening some of them back up about 4:30 p.m. (that day),” he said. “By this morning (May 26), all of them were back open.”
Heavy rain doused the area in a few short hours, he said.
“A lot of rain in a short amount of time is what overwhelmed it,” Wardlow said. “Fortunately, nobody tried to go around the barricades.”
Just three days earlier as the storm system began, floodwaters nearly swept away a motorist at a crossing in Spicewood.
“I watched the car get picked up by the water and taken downstream,” said Burnet County Pct. 4 County Commissioner Joe Don Dockery.
In that rescue, Marble Falls Fire Rescue rescued two people stuck in a tree on Cypress Creek at a low-water crossing on CR 413.
Burnet County crews spent much of the following day cleaning and clearing roadways of debris as they re-opened roads, including CR 404, CR 408 and CR 413.
“We anticipated this would happen,” Dockery said. “When we had the next flood event, due to being in a drought for so long, we knew we’d have the debris and natural vegetation make its way down the creeks and streams.”
When the second round of storms hit the Highland Lakes on May 25, communities including Meadowlakes and Marble Falls barricaded city streets in low-lying areas to protect motorists.
“We had some street flooding on Firestone north of Dog Leg due to a bridge with about three feet of water over it,” Meadowlakes City Manager Johnny Thompson said.
Crews also closed Chaparral, a main flood drainage artery in the community.
“There was about seven houses effected that couldn’t get out for about two hours,” Thompson said.
Soggy conditions also prompted Meadowlakes city officials to close Hidden Falls Golf Course in the heart of the community.
“It’s because it’s so wet that they’re not able to get out and do work without doing further damage,” Thompson said. “We’ll make another call about re-opening the golf course on Monday (June 1).”
In Llano County, emergency crews reported flooding on Slab Road (RR 3404), which remained closed to traffic as of May 26.
“The water got up around five feet (over the roadway),” said Lt. Glen Williams of the Llano County Sheriff’s Office.
As runoff continued on Slab Road, which intersects the Llano River, sheriff’s deputies cited a number of motorists for ignoring the barricades, Williams said.
“We gave several citations for driving around the barricades. One was arrested for actually driving around and going across the river,” Williams said. “You never know. If the water did a lot of damage and caused a weak spot, it could crater out the road, and your car is stuck.”
The violation is a class B misdemeanor punishable by 180 days in county jail and a possible $1,000 fine.
“Six inches can push a small car, and people don’t realize how rough it is to stand up in that swift water,” Williams said. “You’re endangering not just your life but everybody who has to rescue you.”
Other temporary closures in western Llano County were Scott’s Slab (CR 102) and Schneider Slab (CR 103).