Preparations were underway this week in Live Oak County to deal with a potential flooding of the Nueces River based on a forecast issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service Office in Corpus Christi.

For the river, the flood stage is considered 25 feet. At press-time, the NWSO in Corpus Christi had declared a major flood warning for the Nueces River near Three Rivers and George West, first starting on late Friday night and lasting until further notice, according to those officials.

Water was noticeably rising at the Nueces River Paddling Trail entrance off of U.S. Route 281 on Friday. A steady stream of visitors and worried citizens who work in nearby businesses were driving down the road and circling the ramp to observe the change in the level of the water throughout the day.

Zac Durham is the Emergency Management Coordinator for Live Oak County Office of Emergency Management located on 200 Larry R. Busby Drive, George West. For the last nine days he has been travel-ing the county checking bridges, taking measurements and keeping local officials informed as to the potential for major flooding in Live Oak County.

Initially, the forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website. National Weather Service Office in Corpus Christi had the river cresting this past weekend. Originally the river was expected to rise above flood stage of 25 feet early last Saturday morning, Aug. 20, with a continual rise reaching a crest between 38 and 39 feet sometime last Sunday afternoon. When the river reaches 37.3 feet, widespread flood occurs, he explained. Neither the Frio or the Atascosa rivers are at risk at this point, he said. Only the Nueces River is in a flood mode.

Again, at press-time, Durham noted the change to a past Tuesday projected crest incident was relative to unique factors that separate this flood moment from all others in the history of Live Oak County. In advance of the rising waters, minor roads are closed in the county The Airport Road boat ramp near the Live Oak County Airport is flooded and closed. But Durham said that the river flow had been slow and this had pushed back the projections to a crest of the river sometime on Tuesday. He updated the status of the flow on Friday, Aug. 19, stating that the latest data, taken at a point in Tilden in the vicinity of the Texas Highway 16 bridge, showed the river had risen from a height of 12. 6 feet to 17. 1 feet in a 3-hour period. In just 12 hours, he said the river had risen approximately 4 feet in depth, causing concern to rise that the imminent flooding might take place in a sooner time frame. Durham is taking additional measurements based off of the Nueces River gauge where the Nueces crosses under U.S. Route 281 South of Three Rivers.

When first interviewed, Durham said, “It’s moving very slowly. It looks like a small, new lake” from radar and aerial observation. The coordinator added that the lack of momentum in the flow at first could be attributed to several unique factors, including the potential that a large amount of debris was in the water. These are variables the county has not dealt with in the past regarding the potential for broad flooding in this region. He spent much of Thursday, Aug. 18, gauging river bottom information at all at risk locations making sure to document data for future consideration.

Durham said that he is just one “pair of boots on the ground” supported by the minds and skills of so many of the county’s elected officials and first responders, and those who support his effort from neighboring communities and agencies.

To keep the county safe requires the efforts of a region, he emphasized.

“I have a part-time assistant—my predecessor” he said. Based on Texas law, just as every county judge serves in multiple capacities, Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff is the Emergency Management Executive Director and Public Information Officer and Durham said the judge is the individual who ultimately must call the shots during an environmental emergency such as a flood of this projected calibre. The two men have been working hand in hand throughout this current period to keep Live Oak citizens safe and informed. He has spoken with all county officials, and they are aware of the situation and will continue to be updated. They use Hyper-Reach, a reverse 911 system, which he said is phenomenal.

“I have contacted our Red Cross partners,” and everyone is prepared for short-notice implementation of assistance, he said, especially if shelters should need to be set up. Again, as of press-time, county officials were staying in an informed, holding pattern from which they could react quickly.

In complete conjunction with local personnel, Durham said he is in communication with weather experts in Corpus Christi including Melissa Huffman who is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service out of that city.

Additional substantial resources are available for Live Oak County from both Corpus Christi and San Antonio, he said.

Durham has looked at data from flooding that last occurred in the county in the early 2000s and again in 2013. “We plan for the worst case scenario.” This makes a difference, he said.

For Durham, working with these individuals in a crisis moment represents a meaning consensus of years of knowledge. Any images pertinent to the flooding, including charts and graphs are on the Facebook page for Live Oak County Emergency Management, he said.

For example, based on historical information shown in the graphs, during an event like this, major flooding does occur in the River Acres Subdivision, with several feet of water potentially affecting homes. Residents in J.I. Hailey Subdivision at Jones River bend may have difficulty getting out of their residences if water covers Antelope Lane. Also, at 38.0 feet, the Nueces River waters will approach the base of homes in Kellner Camp along County Road 336.

Always a factor, there may be a need to call for a voluntary evacuation if the flooding situation ramps up. Residents would be expected to take what he termed standard routes in such a situation.

A Louisville, Kentucky native, Durham said his work is a passion for him and he is happy to call Texas his home, especially at a time where he can be of particular service to his community. Ice said it is about “Texans helping Texans.” In his current position since last September, Durham said, “I feel like I belong.”

This passion has given him a ready understanding of what is at stake here during a flood incident. He said there is major concern for livestock near the river bottom area and of course, houses in the affected area.

To assist the residents if needed, Durham said there is already one rescue boat available from Texas Parks and Wildlife. He has also asked for the Texas Department of Emergency Management Task Force for the addition of swift water rescue boats to be dispatched here.

They are watching for potential debris to move down the river and affect area bridges including an older one, the one at the Mikeska Road, CR 151, that is still safe and sound, but perhaps is more at risk during a flood.

Part of his job is to coordinate getting assets and rescue resources in place. Durham said it is important to get information out to the public. New people who have come to the county in recent years are less likely to know what to expect as opposed to those who trace their history here back 20, 30 or more years. “For new people the folklore of flooding here is lost to them,” Durham said. As to the availability of resources, fortunately, this is the only moment in South Texas now where a flood situation may be imminent.

The recent rain in Texas provides a tarnished silver lining, presenting the potential for this current flood warning but it also brought needed relief to acreage suffering under drought conditions for most of the summer.

For now, the unusual set of variables that include how the ground so dry from the drought will react to water flow, how much water will be absorbed and how the river will handle it. Some of the drier tributaries might absorb excess flow and alleviate part of the situation.

Lake Corpus Christi may benefit overall from any additional water which in these dry days is one positive outcome to consider. But with so many variables, encountered separately in the past but never all at the same time, it is impossible to predict just what will happen in the next several days.

Durham said that makes this incident even more difficult to assess at this point.



One river water moving slowly.

The naturally occurring lay of the land.

“We’re eyes open and ears up,” he said.


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