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Rivers rise after heavy rainfall

Llano River floods Slab Road

The flood gauge on County Road 307, better known as Kingsland Slab Road, can barely be seen over the top of a cresting Llano River on Oct. 26. The road is one of many low-water crossings that are currently closed in Llano County after heavy rainfall. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Incredible amounts of rain fell across the Llano and Colorado river watersheds on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Oct. 25-26, leading to rapidly rising creeks, rivers, and streams in Llano and Burnet counties. Several roads were closed and a few parks flooded. Residents have been warned about swelling waters in the wake of the heaviest break in an ongoing drought that has strangled Central Texas over the past two years. 

Roads closed in Llano County as of 10:30 a.m. Thursday, per the Llano County Sheriff’s Office, were:

  • CR 307 (Kingsland Slab) at Llano River
  • RR 2241 at Little Sandy Creek
  • CR 216 at Little Llano River
  • CR 102 at Scott’s Slab
  • CR 103 at Schneider slab
  • River Park Drive at Johnson Creek
  • RR 2768 (Castell Slab) at Llano River
  • RR 152 

(Check the LCSO Facebook page for updates.)

Currently, no road closures are being reported in Burnet County. Crews did set up barriers on some Marble Falls residential streets with low-water crossings. 

Valley Spring creek rushing
An unnamed creek in Valley Spring that hasn’t flowed since 2018 surges with renewed life thanks to torrential rainfall across Llano County. Photo courtesy of Devin Osbourn

On Thursday morning, the Lower Colorado River Authority announced its plan to partially open some floodgates at Wirtz and Starcke dams, according to a flood operations report. Boating on Lake Marble Falls will not be allowed during this time.

The LCRA Hydromet shows the Llano River’s flow peaked at over 32,000 cubic-feet per second at around 7 a.m. Thursday. It had dropped to 18,000 cfs as of 10:30 a.m. The river was flowing at about 40 cfs at 7 a.m. Wednesday, a 74,900 percent increase in flow in less than 24 hours.

The Colorado River surged to over 6,600 cfs at about 7:30 a.m. Thursday and had dropped to 4,700 cfs as of 10:30 a.m. The river was flowing at about 18 cfs at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, a 36,566 percent increase in flow in less than 24 hours.

This staggering rise in river levels is due to several inches of rain that fell across Llano and Burnet counties as well as in counties farther north and west in the Llano and Colorado river watersheds.

The amount of rain recorded in the 24 hours before 10:30 a.m. Oct. 26 at locations across the Llano and Colorado river watersheds by the LCRA Hydromet on Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 were:

  • 8.36 inches at Cherokee in San Saba County
  • 7.4 inches at Castell in Llano County
  • 6.36 inches at Johnson Fork near Junction in Kimble County
  • 6.18 inches at Bend in San Saba County
  • 5.27 inches at Junction in Kimble County
  • 5.1 inches at Mason in Mason County
  • 4 inches at Llano in Llano County

By Thursday morning, every LCRA rain gauge in Llano and Burnet counties recorded over an inch of rain except for in Buchanan Dam, which only received 0.91 inches.

Llano River at Roy Inks Bridge
Llano resident Debbie Ratliff on Oct. 26 watched the Llano River rush over the dam and head downstream, where it will deposit millions of gallons of water into Lake LBJ. Much of it will eventually end up in parched Lake Travis. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The heavy rainfall is likely due to the presence of Tropical Storm Norma, which made landfall in western Mexico earlier this week.

Every river, creek, stream, draw, arroyo, and ditch in the Llano and Colorado river watersheds is currently funneling enormous amounts of water into the Highland Lakes. interviewed Llano resident Debbie Ratliff on Thursday morning, asking what she thought of the recent rain as she watched the Llano River surge over the dam and rush beneath Roy Inks Bridge.

“It’s wonderful,” she said.