40 year anniversary of the Memorial Day Flood of 1981


AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week marks the sixth anniversary of the 2015 Hays County flood that devastated parts of Wimberley and San Marcos.

But Central Texas’ history with flood events around Memorial Day goes back even farther to 1981 when 10 inches of rain fell on the city of Austin in just three hours.

Unlike the river flooding that happened in Hays County in 2015, the flooding that occurred in 1981 was more urban and along the small creeks and streams that wind throughout the city. This led to many low water crossings being submerged in water as well as destroying the homes of 19 families along the banks of Shoal Creek.

According to the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, on May 24, 2981 Shoal Creek reached its record highest crest ever recorded at 23.11 feet. This record crest led to the deaths of 13 people and $36 million in damages.

In addition to the flooding, the storms also knocked out power to the National Weather Service station as well as local television and radio stations, leaving thousands of people and first responders without ways to communicate with each other.

Austin’s hilly terrain, coupled with the heavy rain events that tend to happen in the month of May have dubbed Central Texas an infamous meteorological nickname: Flash Flood Alley.

Since the devastation of that day, the City of Austin has partnered with multiple outlets from the National Weather Service, to the U.S. Geological Survey to local organizations and media outlets to become better prepared for future flash flooding events.

Taller bridges and detention ponds have been built across the region, as well as enforcing stricter building regulations along floodplains. All of this in hopes of preventing the disaster from 1981.

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