THE BRAZOS RIVER


Floods of the Brazos River in Texas
Historic Crests for Rosharon, Texas of the 
Brazos River.  
Flood Stage: 43.0 ft

Historical Crests
(1) 56.40 ft on 12/11/1913
(2) 53.40 ft on 05/07/1957
(3) 52.00 ft on 05/01/1965
(4) 51.89 ft on 01/03/1992
(5) 51.82 ft on 10/22/1994
(6) 50.74 ft on 05/14/1968
(7) 50.67 ft on 02/10/1992
(8) 49.22 ft on 11/17/1998
(9) 48.83 ft on 10/24/1998
(10) 48.80 ft on 11/29/2004

Impacts

50.8

At levels above 50.8 feet water begins flowing across the flood plain into Oyster Creek.

50.7

At levels above 50.7 feet minor flow passes through the culvert near the Ramsey Unit Prison Farm into Oyster Creek as water is on the verge of passing over flood plain.

42.0

At levels above 42 feet flooding begins in vicinity of gage as flow escapes the main channel.


See photos of the Brazos River in minor flood stage.


1899 - 1 AM June 27 to 1 AM July 1, 1899 - Widespread heavy rain with 34-in. center in Hearne, 24-in. center in Turnersville, just north of Gatesville.

Probably stalled long wave over west Texas and/or New Mexico for period - Mid- and upper-level water vapor from eastern Pacific - Low-level moisture from jet off Gulf into Texas - and a series of short waves around the southern periphery of the long wave

1899 Tropical Storm Number One

The flood of 1899 was bad, but apparently the flood of 1913 was worse.

1913 - 7 AM Dec 1 to 7 AM Dec 5, 1913 - Widespread heavy rain with 15.50 in. center at San Marcos, 13.80 in. at Bertram, 13.60 in. at Somerville, 11.80 in. at Waco, 11.70 in. at Kaufman - Obviously a classic El Nino year - rainfall totals 20 to 25 in. had fallen in the previous 3 months in the area, and water stood in the fields between storms.

Very likely a long wave stalled over west Texas or New Mexico Dec 1-5 and sent a series of storms around its southern periphery.

The Colorado and Brazos Rivers merged below IH-10 to the Gulf because of the very widespread heavy rain, no flood-control reservoirs on the Colorado or Brazos River, and debris dams on the Colorado and Brazos Rivers.

The Colorado River dam was from river mile 28 above Bay City to river mile 52 just below Wharton - The dam wasn't successfully blasted out by the Corps of Engineers until between 1925 and 1929.

There were 180 drownings - Water was waist deep in downtown Bay City - The Colorado River went over the right bank above Columbus and made an island of the town.

The flood of 1913 was the worst because this area received a lot of rainfall at a time when the Brazos was in flood The level of the Brazos was 56.4ft in 1913 with water covering everything. The Brazos and Colorado joined. The water level was 56.3ft in 1992 but the flooding was only near the Brazos.


Then the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900

Floods in 1902, 1908

Then the hurricane of 1915


1921 - Thrall Flood - A tropical storm formed in the Bay of Campeche the morning of Sept 6, 1921 - made hurricane intensity that afternoon - made landfall near Vera Cruz the early morning of Sept 7 - veered right and fell below depression intensity just as it crossed the Rio Grande at Rio Grande City the night of the 7th - Light rain began falling in San Antonio the 8th, which became a deluge the evening of the 9th, with totals to 18 in. in the northern part of San Antonio.

The 18 in. in northern Bexar County the evening of Sept 9, 1921, created a flood wave through downtown San Antonio 12 ft deep - The flow passed down Olmos and Apache Creeks into the San Antonio River - People caught downtown tried to evacuate vertically to upper floors - 51 didn't make it and drowned as the flood wave peaked near 1:30 AM -

Water was 4 to 5 ft deep in the current St. Marys Church and the Gunter Hotel. Olmos Dam was completed in 1928 as a flood-retention dam to protect downtown San Antonio as a direct result.

Thrall rainfall - 23.4 in. during 6 hrs/31.8 in. during 12 hrs/36.4 in. during 18 hrs/38.2 in. during 24 hrs at a U.S. Weather Bureau station at Thrall is still the national official 24-hr rainfall record ending at 7 AM Sept 10, 1921 - The storm total was 39.7 in. during 36 hrs - With 215 drownings statewide, this was the deadliest flood in Texas history.

Eighty-seven people drowned in and near Taylor and 93 in Williamson County. The confluence of the San Gabriel River and Brushy Creek was 10 mi wide. Not an El Nino or a La Nina year.


The Arcola area local flood of 1925

Several wooden houses were floated off of their blocks. Some drifted for several blocks.


 

1936 - A hurricane had made landfall between Corpus Christi and Victoria June 27 and fell below depression intensity that night as it moved into the Frio River drainage near Leakey - A second tropical storm formed in the Bay of Campeche Sept 10, made landfall at Brownsville the morning of Sept 13, moved across deep south Texas before falling below depression intensity near Del Rio the afternoon of the 14th - This flooding rainfall was widespread over central Texas around the right side of the circulation. Not El Nino or La Nina year.

Worst hit was the city of San Angelo - From USGS Water-Supply Paper 816, published in 1937 - Tate Dalrymple and others -

"Rains exceeding 30 in. in some places fell during September over a large part of the Concho River drainage basin. Three separate flood peaks occurred on the main Concho River - Sept 15, 17, and 26, the flood of the 17th being the highest.

The city of San Angelo suffered greater damage than any other place in the State. On Sept 17, the discharge of the South Concho River reached a maximum of 111,000 cfs and caused stages which backed water up the North Concho River to the center of the city. Just as this water began to recede, the flood from the North Concho River with a peak discharge of 184,000 cfs reached the city. The river channel was inadequate for this enormous quantity of water and the river broke over its banks, flooding large areas of the residential and business sections of the city.

Below the mouth of the Llano River, the stages on the Colorado River during the floods of 1936 were much lower than the stages in the notable floods of 1935."

SAN ANGELO MORNING TIMES - SEPTEMBER 18 - "An insane burst of brown waters wrapped round the dust of a prolonged drought leaped the channels of the Concho Rivers here yesterday, hurled to destruction an approximate of 300 houses in all parts of town and left an uninsured flood damage of abut $1,500,000, the worst water damage in the history of this 68-year-old city. It is the major catastrophe of all time for San Angelo.

More than 100 persons were rescued from drowning on the streets or from flooded houses, while many hundreds more were removed under conditions less dangerous. There was an estimated 300 homeless families last night, who were sleeping in the schoolhouses and in other public buildings, in stores, while hotels were filled. Numerous buildings not destroyed were flooded and filled with silt.

The North Concho River, chief troublemaker of the day, charged drunkenly into the Negro and Mexican section, threw houses and shacks against the Sixth Street Bridge now under construction spread wanton piles of other wrecked houses here and there. Then it moved into the elite residential district, climbed a 40 ft cliff to run a stream knee deep in the home of Preston Rothrup. It tore the C.R. Hallmark home from its foundations, raced it over the Santa Fe Golf Course, and cracked it into matchwood at the submerged Millspaugh Bridge."

SAN ANGELO EVENING STANDARD - SEPTEMBER 18: "Perhaps the most dramatic episode of the flood in downtown San Angelo was the evacuation of approximately 75 persons from the Naylor Hotel, at Chadbourne and Concho, at mid-afternoon. A crowd of at least 1,000 persons witnessed the rescues. The water flowed 6 ft deep through the lobby of the hotel, which stands on the site of the old Landon Hotel, destroyed by fire. The 1906 flood had brought the water up to within 2 ft of the old Landon."

SAN ANGELO MORNING TIMES - SEPTEMBER 19 - "Rockwood, Coleman County,—Hundreds of farmers and their families were fleeing from the Colorado River bottoms near here tonight as the river reached a flood stage of 70 ft, 17 ft higher than ever known. The steel highway bridge at Stacy and the one here went out this afternoon under the hammering of heavy debris pounded against them by the turbulent flood.

Flood stage here is 35 ft. The previous high-water mark here was set in 1906, when the river reached 55.5 ft long time residents said."

SAN ANGELO STANDARD TIMES - SEPTEMBER 20: Brownwood, Sept 19—"The treacherous floodwaters of the Colorado River late today claimed their second victim when a farmer was drowned while attempting to save his livestock. The angry river was 2 mi wide at Indian Creek community, in Brown County, washing away a number of homes and barns. The flood stage climbed to 72 ft where the Brownwood-Brady Hwy bridge crosses the Colorado. This mark is 14 ft higher than any ever recorded before."


1957 - April-May-June - That spring Texas was caught between an abnormally strong Bermuda high which extended into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and a persistent long wave trough over the western U.S. - Maritime cool fronts periodically pushed across the Central Plains but didn't move into central Texas shutting off the Gulf and eastern Pacific moisture - Upper lows persistently moved around the south periphery of the long
wave into Texas, bringing eastern Pacific moisture with them into the low-level jet off the Gulf flowing into central Texas.

All of north-central, northeast Texas, much of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana had 20 to 36 in. of rain in April-June. Most bridges on the Brazos River washed out in this long lived flooding period.


1991 - Dec 18 to 23, 1991 - Christmas Flood - A stalled long wave Dec 18th over Arizona extended into the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico. The upper low was reflected at the surface along the Arizona/Mexico border. A series of cold air masses pushed from the Pacific Northwest across the Central Plains into the southeastern U.S.

A cold-air-induced surface high was centered over Georgia. A stationary front in central Texas marked the southern periphery of the cold air masses moving across the Central Plains. At low levels, clockwise flow around the southeastern high brought a long fetch of very warm moist air across the Gulf, across the Texas Coastal Bend, and into central Texas as a low-level jet. The weather station at Corpus Christi measured 850 mph winds of 60 to 70 knots from about 160 to 170 degrees for the duration of the storm. The low-level jet slammed into the stationary front across central Texas as a trigger mechanism.

At upper levels, the long wave in the west induced a water vapor plume from the eastern Pacific across Mexico into Texas. Tremendous rain and flooding occurred at and south of the confluence of the upper vapor plume, the low-level jet, and the surface stationary front. The heaviest rain was 16 to 18 in. on an area from Llano to Bandera to Boerne. The 6-in. isohyetal extended from the Red River north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex - to near Coleman - to between Bracketville and Uvalde - to near Corpus Christi - to near Palestine - to the Red River.

This was not a historic event in terms of large rainfall totals. But in terms of total rain volume that fell from the sky in one event, this certainly was one of the largest in Texas recorded history, if not the largest. Certainly it rivals Hurricane Beulah, the June 1935, Hurricane Alice in 1954, and the June 1987 floods.

Record flooding moved down the San Gabriel and Little Rivers into the Brazos River above Bryan. The Brazos River was 5 mi wide west of Bryan and College Station. The Navasota River was well over 1 mi wide in Grimes and Brazos Counties. A huge lake over 10 mi long by 10 mi wide was created above the confluence of the Navasota and Brazos Rivers above Washington on the Brazos State Park. High areas were above the water, but most areas flooded.

Downstream, the Brazos River and Oyster Creek merged as the Brazos River flowed over the left floodplain near Harris Reservoir. Thousands of previously unsuspecting home owners were flooded as Oyster Creek became several miles wide in Brazoria County. Residential flooding was widespread above Simonton to the Gulf in Fort Bend and Brazoria Counties. In the Valley Lodge Subdivision near Simonton, most of the 200 homes flooded, some a half mile from the river. Five-hundred homes suffered serious flood damage in Brazoria County. Two-hundred forty-five of 250 homes flooded in Holiday Lakes Estates between East Columbia and Angleton.

Flooding was disastrous also in the Colorado River drainage. Very high flows down the Pedernales and Colorado Rivers into the Highland Lakes system put a tremendous amount of storage into them. The problem was, managers could not release water from Lake Travis because disastrous floodwaters were flowing from Walnut, Onion, and all the other creeks flowing into the Colorado River below Lake Travis. Onion Creek at Hwy 183 crested at 30.50 ft, a record since a recording gage was installed March 1976. The Pedernales River severely flooded and damaged LBJ National Park at Stonewall. Flow just seeped over the stone wall at the Johnson Family Cemetery.

The Lower Colorado River Authority could do nothing but store all the very high inflow. Lake Travis quickly rose to a record elevation of 710.44 ft Dec 26, 1991. Nearly 400 homes flooded around Lake Travis with up to 22 ft of water over the lowest slabs.

Downstream, a few homes flooded near Bastrop as the Colorado River crested at a record 37.48 ft. Between Bastrop and Smithville, the Hidden Valley Estates, the Doty River Estates, and the Pecan Shores subdivisions had several tens of homes flooded up to nearly 9 ft. In LaGrange, the Fritsch Auf subdivision had over 10 homes flooded up to 6 ft.

Two homes flooded in Columbus. Downstream, 15 homes flooded up to 2 to 3 ft in Wharton. Much worse flooding was spared because the flooding escaped over the left floodplain upstream near Garwood into a widespread area of farmland.

The Guadalupe River had severe flooding. Two homes flooded near Cuero, and downstream near Thomaston in the River Haven subdivision, three homes flooded.

In Victoria, eight city blocks of the Greens Addition in the west part flooded, and also the city park, zoo, and golf course. Downstream, the Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers were several miles wide near their confluence near Tivoli. Some ranchers would feed their cattle by boat on floodwaters into June.

1991 was an El Nino year. This flood would be followed by a series of floods a week or 10 days apart into late May or early June. Emergency spillways on every flood-control reservoir on the Brazos River would be spilling 2 to 3 ft by mid-March. Water stood in the fields between storms from late December into early June in many areas, mainly in the Brazos and Colorado River drainages below Austin to the Gulf.

The Edwards aquifer would crest at a record 703.2 ft elevation June 14, 1992.


The biggest flood in Texas did not involve the Brazos River.

1869 - Probably the biggest flood in Texas history - Produced by heavy rain that extended into northwest Texas - Tremendous flooding down the Colorado River from the headwaters to the mouth

Account of flood by Frank Brown - Travis County Clerk, in the "Annals of Travis County" -

"The highest and probably the most disastrous flood that ever came down the Colorado River within a hundred years occurred early in July 1869. Certainly none such ever occurred within the memory of oldest inhabitants of the white race. The floods of 1833, 1836, 1843, 1852, and 1870 did not approach it in volume within 8 or 10 ft.

Early in the first week of July rain commenced falling and so continued at short intervals for several days. The stream commenced gradually rising, but no apprehension was felt of the heavy overflow. On the 6th, a tremendous flood suddenly came down in solid walls, overflowing all the lowlands and spreading over the valleys to the hills. The river rose to the bluffs. The people thought the highest was reached, but the water continued to rise rapidly, and much alarm was felt. The river reached its highest mark on the evening of July 7, at about 9 o'clock.

The rise was estimated at forty-six ft. The mass of waters rushed down from the narrow and confined channel between the mountains above, to the wider one below, with such fearful velocity that the middle of the stream was higher than the sides, and the aspect it presented was appalling."


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