With slope still unstable, city prepares Shoal Creek area for storms


AUSTIN (KXAN) — In anticipation of storms over the weekend, city of Austin crews have been making preparations at the neighborhood near Shoal Creek where a landslide happened in May.  At that time, the slope gave way and several backyards were damaged. 

Crews placed sandbags in front of homes that sit atop the eroding slope. Inlets are already in place to prevent rainwater from draining onto the slope, but that water then gets diverted to neighborhood streets. Mike Kelly, Managing Engineer for the City of Austin, said the sandbags help to keep the water from going into residents’ driveways and back onto the slope. 

Kelly’s team will continue watching the neighborhood as rain draws closer to Austin and bring in additional support if it’s needed. Since the landslide, his team brings in sandbags with storms that are expected to bring more than half an inch of rain. So far, he says that strategy has been working. 

“There’s always risk there right now, it’s unstable,” Kelly said of the slope where the homes sit. He explained that the more rain falls, the more weight bears down on the cliff, and the more risk of erosion.

Kelly urged the public to be cautious around the slope in the rain and to heed existing signs and barriers blocking people off from Shoal Creek and it’s trail. 

“So if we do get heavy rain, have your extra eyes and ears on when you’re around that area,” Kelly said. 

Back in May, the city found that a wastewater pipe which was draining onto the slope was compounding the problem. The city has since diverted the pipe to a new water line, but they still need to stabilize the slope. 

The city presented a plan to prevent more damage that included possibilities like driving ground anchors into the clay and limestone, using soil nails to stabilize the ground, and materials to stabilize the bottom of the slope along the creek.

But Kelly explained the city needs to evaluate the best options and talk to all the parties involved before they can start working.  By October the city says they’ll be able to get more data from the slope to build a long-term solution. 

Kelly said Shoal Creek is the only landslide his team is currently monitoring in the city of Austin’s jurisdiction, though he noted the recent landslides off of the Capital of Texas Highway are concerning and fall under TxDOT’s purview. 

The city of Austin will also be monitoring low water crossings during the storm because even an inch of rain can cause water to flood there. The city will also be monitoring Onion Creek, Walnut Creek, Williamson Creek and other areas that have seen recent flooding. 

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