City gets swamped by record storm
May 15, 2010 at 12:15 a.m.
BY THE NUMBERS
20 to 30 percent of area roads were impassible Saturday morning due to heavy rains.
Approximately 150 homes and hundreds of vehicles were flooded.
"A number of water rescues" were also made, according to the city of Victoria.
At 5 p.m., the Guadalupe River level was at 17.5 feet.
From noon Friday to noon Saturday, 6.02 inches of rain fell, according to the National Weather Service.
At 6 a.m. Saturday, the heaviest rainfall began and continued until 8 a.m.
Unofficial reports gathered from personal rain gauges measured 8.1 inches in west Victoria and 7.5 inches downtown.
A storm surged to the coastal plains of Victoria on Saturday morning. In two hours, Victorians woke to 4.4 inches of rain, traffic detours and flooded cars - stranding some in their vehicles until helped arrived.
As of Saturday evening, no storm-related injuries were reported, according to a city news release.
The waters receded as suddenly as they built up in most parts of Victoria.
Unstable storm system
"It was just a heck of a rain," O.C. Garza, the city's public information officer, said.
"I would say I'm impressed we've heard of no personal injuries," he added. "I think Victorians responded pretty well to it."
Roger Gass, a National Weather Service forecaster, said a strong complex of thunderstorms moved over the Midland-Odessa area Friday and shifted southeast overnight, becoming less stable and more moist as it reached San Antonio.
"It was kind of like an it-could-happen scenario," Gass said, explaining most storms that move across the state lose steam before reaching the coastline.
Moisture coming off the Gulf Coast helped feed the thunderstorms enough to cause the downpour, he said.
Scott Cordero with the National Weather Service said wind gusts estimated at 60 mph knocked large tree limbs into a house at 7 a.m. on Pickering Road southeast of Victoria. The wind at the Victoria Regional Airport gusted to 55 mph.
Water gushed out of a Southwest Ben Jordan Street manhole like a geyser as traffic wound its way around the spewing drainage.
Waves created by traffic flooded some neighborhood homes.
In the wake of the deluge, tree limbs and trash were left strewn across roads. Flooded residents began cleanup about 8 a.m., when the downpour ended.
There was a defined mark where the floodwaters peaked at Juanita Lopez's South William Street home, where she has lived for 30 years.
Lately, she has contemplated leaving her neighborhood because floods have increasingly struck there in the past few years, she said.
The neighborhood's storm drainage system becomes clogged at the railroad tracks, 10 yards from her home and where storm waters are supposed to flow out, Lopez said.
"I'm tired of calling the city for this and that," she said, wiping sweat from her face after helping her son remove debris from the drain. "I'm just going to leave it like that."
The city helps maintain storm sewers, although private companies install them in residential areas.
Most of the storm drainage systems in the southern Victoria communities that often flood, Garza said, met the code in the 1950s and 60s but could probably be more effective if they were more modern.
However, not many storm systems could have prevented damage from a downpour like Saturday's, he said.
"I know everybody that has water has got some damage," Garza said. "They're very upset about it, and you can't blame them. But it's a lot of rain, and I'm not so sure any storm system would have handled the amount of flow that was coming out of the sky this morning."
Saturday broke a Victoria record for daily rainfall on May 15, shattering the previous record, set in 1992, by more than three inches.
Specialists at the National Weather Service were still collecting rainfall totals late Saturday.
Climate records have been kept since 1893. The most rainfall for any day was set on April 5, 1991, when 9.87 inches fell on Victoria.
The city of Victoria sent a reverse 911 call Saturday morning urging all residents to stay off the street.
The heavy rain is forecast to send the Guadalupe River at Victoria past the 21-foot flood stage Tuesday morning and a crest of near 25 feet is expected Wednesday, which should cause minor flooding, according to the National Weather Service.
The river at Bloomington has already risen to 24 feet on Saturday, 4 feet above flood stage. The Guadalupe should crest near 27 feet by early Thursday.