|By Jim Purpura (MIC), Donell Woods (WCM), Andy Patrick (SOO), Jim Lane (IT),
John Metz (MET), Greg Wilk (Hydro Focal Point), Brian LaMarre (MET), Steve Smart (HMT),
Dave Davenport (DAPM), Tom Dever (HMT), Eric Avila (SCEP),
Don Parkerson (ESA), and Bill Tomey (ET)
Three teams of National Weather Service employees from the NWS Corpus Christi office surveyed the flooded rivers on July 3rd, 10th, and 11th. Aerial photographs were taken with digital cameras, and can be enlarged by clicking on the graphic. Aerial photos were taken by Steve Smart, Hydrometeorological Technician (HMT) and Andy Patrick, Science Operations Officer (SOO) - NWS Corpus Christi employees. Other photographs were made available courtesy of the Victoria Advocate Newspaper in Victoria Texas.
Synoptic Weather Pattern
A slow-moving tropical wave moved west across the northern Gulf of Mexico and into south Texas during the week of June 30th to July 7th. An abundance of tropical moisture accompanied the tropical wave. The tropical wave moved inland over central Texas and became a stationary low pressure system.
Winds circulate counter-clockwise around low pressure. During the night, disturbances developed on the western side of the low over north central Texas and moved south through the heart of the state generating tremendous amounts of rain. During the day, disturbances developed on the eastern side of the low along the southern Mexican coast south of Brownsville, and moved north spreading tropical rains into the Coastal Bend and Texas Hill Country.
The low pressure system remained stationary over south Texas for a week bringing disastrous flooding to parts of the Texas Hill Country and south Texas. Total rainfall amounts of 25 to 35 inches were reported across the Texas Hill Country with 10 to 15 inch amounts noted over the Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Plains. This set the stage for record flooding of creeks and rivers in the area. On July 14-16, another heavy rainfall event occurred which caused the rivers to rise again. The Guadalupe River , San Antonio River , Atascosa River , Frio River , and Nueces River all reached major flood levels.
NWS Corpus Christi Performance During the Flood Event
Days before the event occurred, NWS Corpus Christi issued a heavy rainfall outlook alerting south Texas to the possibility of heavy rains. Once the rains began, a Flash Flood watch was issued. Because of the flooding rains, A total of 62 Flash Flood Warning were issued covering 14 out of 15 counties in our County Warning Area over a duration of 179 hours. During the next two weeks, the NWS in Corpus Christi issued a total of 370 river forecast updates for 11 river forecast points along 5 major rivers. Flood Warning Lead Times
The NWS in Corpus Christi received hundreds of phone calls during the event from concerned citizens living along the rivers. Most calls were from folks along the Guadalupe and Nueces Rivers. Despite the disastrous floods no lives were reported lost in our county warning area, however there was one major injury. Numerous photos, graphs, and statistics of this disastrous flood are provided within this detailed flood survey.
President Declares Texas Disaster Area
On July 4, 2002, the heavy rains and extensive flooding caused President Bush to declare a major disaster for Texas making federal assistance available for specific counties inundated by flood waters. Over half the counties in the NWS Corpus Christi County Warning Area were declared a disaster.
Aerial Flood Survey
Two dedicated NWS Corpus Christi employees, Steve Smart (HMT) and Andy Patrick (SOO) conducted a flood survey on July 13, 2002. Their Cessna 172 was piloted by Rich Rowe, Jr., Corpus Christi School of Aviation. Their 3 1/2 hour journey began at the Corpus Christi International Airport. They first photographed the San Antonio and Guadalupe River confluence. Next, they flew north over the Guadalupe River to Nursery, then south to view the San Antonio River at Goliad. Choke Canyon Reservoir and Lake Corpus Christi were surveyed before following the Nueces River back to Corpus Christi.
The amazement in seeing Choke Canyon and Lake Corpus Christi filled with precious water was sobered by sights of fields, bridges, buildings, homes and property inundated by flood waters. The extent and magnitude of the river flooding offered a surreal yet eye-opening experience. Surveying our area by aircraft, it was evident that flooding in our County Warning Area was far beyond closing a few roadways, overflowing drainage ditches, or inconveniencing the casual commuter. It dramatically altered the landscape we are accustomed to seeing. Beyond words and description, the flooding incapacitated and devastated communities, families, and individuals.
The flooded rivers seemed to herald a stark reminder that weather and the elements will not be mastered or contained. After our aerial survey was completed, it was easy to think and believe how catastrophic it will be when a major hurricane strikes our region. Our only hope is that the people of south Texas realize, plan and brace for the worst of weather conditions to occur when least expected.
For south Texas, this weather event was kind in ways. True and sadly, it consumed property, washed away agricultural resources, and caused many to modify their current lifestyles. However, it did not cause the loss of lives in the Corpus Christi county warning areas and we were left with a gift of water reserves for future use. Will the next weather event be so kind and will we be adequately prepared to face it? Lets hope so.