Texas Water Safari postponed because of flooding danger

June 10, 2010 at 1:10 a.m.

Several buses lie wrapped around trees after an early morning flash flood along the Guadalupe River on Wednesday in Gruene.

Several buses lie wrapped around trees after an early morning flash flood along the Guadalupe River on Wednesday in Gruene.

The Texas Water Safari has been postponed, technically, three times.

The first was in the 1980s. Then, in 2004, the race was moved back a few weeks because of flooding along the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers in June, with the expectation that Fourth of July weekend would be the starting date.

Then the rivers reached flood levels in July, forcing to be moved back again to August.

And now it's been postponed a fourth time.

Thanks to heavy rains in the San Antonio area, the lower Guadalupe River is expected to reach flood levels this weekend, causing organizers of the Texas Water Safari to postpone the race until July 10, said Allen Spelce, the race's president.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning starting Saturday for the Guadalupe River through Victoria and Bloomington, a part of the river racers know as the most rigorous part of the race.

Flood stage

The Guadalupe River is expected to be at flood stage on Sunday and even into Monday and Tuesday. Parts of Riverside Park, including low-lying areas of the golf course and the zoo, are expected to flood.

For the race, the high water normally makes for a faster race. But flood levels make it outright unsafe for racers floating down the river.

"We felt like those conditions would be unsafe for the racers," Spelce said. "We wouldn't have access ... to get into the river to do rescues if we had to. Some of the checkpoints would be under water also."

The river is expected to hit 28.2 feet by Sunday night around Victoria and Bloomington.

Debris and a bridge in a lake

Inaccessible checkpoints are one thing, but the rising water will create a whole new set of obstacles with which most racers would have to contend.

"As it was explained to me, the railroad bridge below Victoria, it will essentially become a lake around there," Spelce said.

The rising water also increases the possibility of debris in the river and other floating hazards that boaters could hit.

A stark contrast

This year is expected to be much different from the last two, especially after the rains in the last few weeks.

Spelce said he still thinks the rivers will be running high in four weeks when the race is set to run, but he's not sure.

"It's really hard to tell," he said. "So far this June is shaping up to be wetter than May."

He does know it will be better than last year.

"We've still got four weeks, but the aquifer and springs are still pretty charged, so I think we are still looking at good water," Spelce said. "But nothing like what we've had the last two years with record low water."

Flat land, hallucinations and a dam

Racers are already fatigued as they reach the flattest part of the Guadalupe River from Cuero to Tivoli.

The stretch of river after Victoria and to the coast is already well known for racers so fatigued from paddling for a day straight that they begin to hallucinate.

Because the grade of the land changes, water flowing down river tends to back up, causing it to spill over its banks, Spelce said.

San Antonio Bay also acts like a dam for the river, causing the fresh water from the rains to stay in the river and eventually over the the river banks. The tide also plays a role in the speed of the runoff down the Guadalupe River.

The San Marcos River hit flood stage Wednesday night, Spelce said, but because of the grade of the river it flowed off quickly.



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