Rain, floods plague Guadalupe watershed

Flood dampens Holiday for Winter Texans

Ida Castillo

Times Guardian Staff Writer

Canyon Lake Corps of Engineers closed two of its three open camping parks Sunday, November 21 because of the rising lake water. Campers at Potter's Creek and Crane's Mill were asked to seek higher campgrounds elsewhere to ensure their safety and the protection of the park resources. All electricity to Potterís Creek Park was turned off. Only six of 19 campsites remain open at North Park.

At 924.28, 15.28 feet above the conservation pool level, the lake is the highest it has been since September of 2002 when the lake was recovering from its largest flood, according to the COE Fort Worth district website.

Upstream flow into Canyon Lake reached above 10,000 cfs on Monday, said Tim Horn, Canyon Lake Manager. Though the rain pour is expected to slow by Wednesday, the continued inflow from areas upstream Guadalupe River is expected to cause the lake to continue rising slightly.

Canyon Lake is one of five lakes maintained by the COE Little River Project, which includes lakes as far north as Belton to as far south as Canyon. All of these lakes have reached 10 feet or more above conservation pool level as a result of heavy rains in the past week, highs that have not been seen for several years. Canyon Lake now occupies 35% of its flood pool.

As of Tuesday, gauges on the Guadalupe down stream from Canyon Lake observed by National Weather Service operations in San Antonio and Corpus Christi show the river to be seven feet above flood level in several areas creating moderate to major flood conditions. In Gonzales, the Guadalupe river rose more than 12 feet above its flood stage causing dangerous road conditions. Most of River Road from Canyon to New Braunfels was impassable Monday.

In order to improve the balance of water flow and help prevent further flooding downstream, the COE is currently limiting the outflow from the dam to 257 cubic feet per second.

The reservoir control office at the COE Fort Worth District looks at the rainfall and total saturation of all areas before authorizing the release of water from reservoirs.

"Reservoir control will be able to make some projections once the rain stops," said Horn. "Until then, there's no real way of predicting."

But with the spillway crest at an elevation of 943 feet, "we still have a lot of capacity," said Horn.

After a nearly seven-foot jump in elevation on Wednesday, Nov. 17, the COE closed Canyon Park Road leading to Canyon Lake marina Thursday in anticipation of lake water covering the road. This prediction came true the next morning. The COE anticipates the need to keep the road closed for several weeks in order to prevent damage to the saturated asphalt.

The closure has put a slight damper on Thanksgiving feast planned by Papa Dock's. The five-year traditional Thanksgiving dinner will now take place at the Garden Gate in Sattler.

"Before the road went under, we had about 30 to 40 reservations," said Papa Dock's chef Steve Davey. "We wanted to make sure we honor those reservations."

The holiday dinner will travel from Papa Doc's via boat to Crane's Mill Marina and then to Garden Gate where the feast will commence on schedule from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Heavy rainfall in much of the Hill Country caused flooding on many roadways. Comal County crews did not have enough barricades to cover every road closure. Comal ISD let school out early and county officials prepared emergency shelters just in case. Governor Rick Perry also authorized the activation of three UH-60 helicopters for search and rescue in Comal, Bexar and Bastrop counties.

"We hope Texans will take all possible precautions during severe weather to keep them from dangerous situations," Perry said in a news release. "However, in these unpredictable conditions, we want to make certain we have resources readily available to assist in the event of emergencies."

The Texas Army National Guard and emergency rescue teams from Texas Task Force 1 were also deployed for action on Monday.

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