County gets big scare, minor flooding

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Despite dire predictions by weather gurus, Austin County only experienced minor flooding from the Brazos and San Bernard rivers and heavy rainfall last week.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for the southern end of Austin County near the San Bernard and on the east along the Brazos through most of last week and the weekend. The flood warnings were extended through Tuesday morning before being canceled.

“Minor lowland flooding continues as the Brazos River begins filling the Frydek Bottom upstream of Valley Lodge. Gates are closed and pumping continues in Simonton and FM 1458 near FM 1093 in Austin County is inundated,” the weather service reported.

The San Bernard River is at flood stage and minor flooding is occurring near East Bernard, just south of Wallis in Wharton County.

“Minor flooding is occurring, and minor flooding is forecast,” the NWS reported. “Flood stage is 17.0 feet. Forecast ... The river will continue rising to near 19.1 feet by tomorrow (Thursday) early afternoon. The river will fall below flood stage late Saturday morning.”

Although Harris and Fort Bend counties were issuing several updates and warning throughout the week as various storms pelted the area, Austin County remained relatively unscathed as most of the flooding occurred in those counties and further south.

According to Ray Chislett, Austin County’s emergency management coordinator, most of Austin County’s residents didn’t have anything to worry about from the weather or the rivers.

“The Brazos isn’t predicted to flood,” he said last week, noting that low-lying areas along some of the tributaries may be prone to flooding.

Chislett said all of the flooding predictions for the Brazos River were downstream in Fort Bend and Brazoria counties.

“We as a county … all have a pretty good idea of what floods and what doesn’t flood,” he said.

Chislett said that because the Brazos River wasn’t expected to flood and the weather is limited to rain events, there were no emergency alerts or evacuation notices issued for Austin County.

He said anyone wishing to be alerted about local weather hazards and other emergencies can download the REGROUP app on the front page of the county’s website at www.austincounty.com.

Chislett said that most people in the county are well aware of which areas flood after the floods of the past few years.

“Most of the folks should be aware of their surroundings,” he said.

He added that between local news and social media that most people were aware of the rainy weather forecast and flooding predictions.

“Should something arise that we need to notify the locals of, we will do that,” he said.

He said the Brazos was predicted crest of 119.5 feet.

“Flooding starts at 122 feet, so we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

The forecast called for rain through the weekend, which Chislett said he was monitoring.

“We may have some flash flooding … but the Brazos is not going to take us out,” he said.

He said if people living in flood-prone areas are not comfortable they can seek higher ground, but no evacuation orders were given.

Park evacuated

There has been an evacuation order given at Stephen F. Austin State Park, which is closed due to minor flooding. Park Manager Martha Garcia said when the river reaches 113 feet, she must take action.

“I’m not worried about the rain here. I’m worried about the rain up north,” she said.

In particular, if there is a release from Lake Somerville, it will likely cause the park in San Felipe to flood. Downriver, Brazos Bend State Park has closed and is experiencing significant flooding.

The rain that fell on the area Tuesday caused low-lying areas to flood, including a large portion of the Stephen F. Austin Golf Course, which abuts the state park.

Austin County flood maps become final

New flood maps become effective on Oct. 18, 2019, for Austin County. Residents are encouraged to examine the maps to determine if they are in a low to moderate, or high-risk flood zone.

By understanding flood risks, individuals can decide which insurance option is best for their situation. Community leaders can use the maps to make informed decisions about building standards and development that will make the community more resilient and lessen the impacts of a flooding event.

Homeowners should contact their local floodplain administrator to review the new flood maps and learn more about the risk of flooding. FEMA map specialists are available to answer questions about the maps as well. Contact them by phone or online chat.

· To use the live chat service, visit http://go.usa.gov/r6C. Click on the “Live Chat” icon.

· To contact a FEMA Map Specialist, call 1-877-FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627) or send an email to FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com.

To learn more, visit www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-4661.

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