Following Drought: Historic Flash Floods in Austin
November 8, 2013
The neighborhoods near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport were overwhelmed in the early morning hours of Oct. 31, when water from nearby Onion Creek surged past its banks and rolled into their streets, filling homes within minutes.
Unbeknownst to them, they were caught in a historic flash flood with more force and volume of water than the city has ever seen. The flood killed at least four people – including a woman and her 8-month-old son who were swept away in their car – damaged more than 1,200 homes and sent hundreds of residents fleeing to higher ground.
A torrential rainstorm that stalled over a limestone watershed prone to flash floods led to the flooding, said Wendy Morgan, a city of Austin spokeswoman. Onion Creek rose 11 feet in 15 minutes and crested at a historic 41 feet, sending walls of water into surrounding neighborhoods. The previous record for Onion Creek, set in 1869 and again in 1921, was 38 feet, Morgan said.
The recent flood had a flow rate of 120,000 cubic feet per second – nearly twice the force of Niagara Falls, she said.