Texas Floods – 1998

On October 17 1998, a catastrophic flood took place in southern and central Texas. The National Weather Service had predicted the coming storm, because a trough of low atmospheric pressure was approaching from the west.

Thanks to Hurricane Madeline, which lay off the west coast of Mexico, the weather in Texas was very warm and moist. It was forecast that if the two fronts collided, thunderstorms would occur. And if the cold front, also moving across the western United States, were to coincide with the rain, a serious storm could take place, bringing floods in its wake.

Early on October 17 it began raining and peals of thunder rumbled around from time to time. By the evening the cold front had arrived and the heavens opened across the whole region. The deluge poured down continuously until the following evening, bursting the banks of every river, lake and creek in the area. In San Antonio and Austin, and their suburbs, the impact was enormous: 74 cm (29 in) of water fell upon a small area in Caldwell County, and between 50-76 cm (20-30 in) fell elsewhere, producing the highest levels of water in the many creeks and rivers ever recorded.

At first the conurbations suffered widespread flash floods, but by nightfall the deluge moved closer to the coast and became a major flood, affecting seven river basins. The Guadalupe River, normally 46 m (150 ft) wide, grew to a staggering 10 km (6 mi) in width. The National Guard came to the rescue and up to 10,000 people had to leave their homes. Houses were completely washed away and 15,000 cattle were thought to have drowned, although some managed to escape when their fencing was destroyed. Deaths occurred in nine Texan counties and, when the waters began to recede, everything was slicked with a thick coat of mud.

When: October 17-18 1998

Where: Texas

Death toll: 31 deaths occurred in 24 incidents. The victims ranged in age between two months and 83 years.

You should know: The estimated cost of damage to property was estimated at about $750 million and total compensation for families, small businesses, unemployment assistance, public assistance and temporary housing was another $188 million. President Clinton declared it to be a major disaster and offered federal aid.

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