Thunder outside, gray skies, and more rain. Central Texas suffers again — flooding, loss of lives, loss of homes. These tragedies become the backdrop for our local news. We are fortunate to be tucked away, safe and cozy in our ranch-style home on the banks of Lake Austin. I’ve received several messages asking about the status of our lake and appreciate my family and friends’ concerns.
Here’s the update as of Tuesday, May 31, 2016, 2:00 p.m.
At this moment swift water flows across the lower level of our dock and the sky rumbles above me. From my desk I see a tiny swath of sky above the tree line, just enough to have an immediate view of what’s to come, not much else. The next wave dances on the radar and I long for a wide-open horizon, one that offers an expansive view (with plenty of time to take cover from the storm).
Yesterday during our Memorial Day picnic a helicopter flew overhead, up and down the shoreline. We watched it circle above us as we swam. Then sirens blared and a loud speaker shouted down at us, “The lake is closed! Lake Austin is closed!”
Lake Austin, also referred to as the Lower Colorado River, is contained by Mansfield Dam on the north end and Tom Miller Dam on the south. It’s a constant level lake used to control the rising waters of Lake Travis, the reservoir above us. Lake Austin feeds Lady Bird Lake which snakes through Austin and is a favorite attraction for visitors and residents in the downtown area.
We’ve lived on these shores for twenty-five years and this vocal warning from above felt eerie and strange. Lake police patrolled up and down the river for the rest of the evening, lights flashing, horns blowing, all echoes of a time last year when officials closed the lake to search for a missing body.
First I turned to LCRA’s (the Lower Colorado River Authority’s) website and discovered their plan to open three floodgates. The first at 5:00 p.m. (my time stamp said 5:03 – gulp! – one already open), the second scheduled to open at 7 p.m. and the third at 9 p.m.
We began to hustle.
Marq, along with a few of our guests, secured the dock, tying down the canoe, kayaks, and large inner tube. They raised the boat lift as much as possible and carried loose items upstairs to the upper deck. From experience we know that with three floodgates open, the water rises about 1-2 feet over the bottom deck. The highest we’ve ever seen it was in December of 1991, a few months after we purchased the property. LCRA opened five floodgates and the water rose 5 feet over the bottom deck and stayed that way for days.
Been there, done that! Not too eager to do it again.
All this rain is a blessing and a curse, deserving of the cliche when it rains it pours. Central Texas is always prone to bursts of heavy flooding contrasted with years of severe drought. And in-between these extreme weather patterns, Mother Nature usually behaves herself and bestows upon us mild, temperate weather perfect for floating in calm waters.
Since we have no say in the matter, I wait. The weather will change, it always does.