A car slid off a rain-soaked road and into the ditch off FM 973 near Texas 130 early Sunday. When Manor firefighters arrived just before 6 a.m., the water in the culvert reached their ankles.
Within 30 minutes, the vehicle was completely submerged.
“It sounded like Niagara Falls,” said Lt. Joe Stock with the Travis County Emergency Services District 12 in Manor. “At one point, it was that loud.”
Storms crisscrossed Austin and Travis County on Saturday night into Sunday morning, dumping as much as six inches of rain in parts of Central Texas, cutting power to thousands and catching drivers unaware on flooded roads.
A slow-moving cold front and showers bombed Pflugerville with 6.34 inches of rain, Coupland with 5.51 inches and an area northeast of Elgin with 4.43 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Camp Mabry in Austin reported 1.9 inches between midnight Saturday and Sunday afternoon, while Austin-Bergstrom International Airport received an inch.
“These rainfall totals … were generally higher than last weekend when we had the rain, but we can take all the rain that we can get,” said Aaron Treadway, a meteorologist with the weather service who added that the area is 2 inches above normal September rainfall.
As of 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Lake Buchanan had risen a little more than an inch and a half over the past 24 hours, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority. Lake Travis dropped about a quarter inch in that same time frame. Although lake levels didn’t see significant change from the most recent bout of rain, that could change in a few days as water from swollen streams and tributaries make their way down, said LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma.
In Manor, firefighters were stationed on the north and south ends of FM 973 because water covered about a half-mile of the road.
While rescuers pulled the uninjured driver through the water to safety, fire crews on the south side spotted two people walking out of the flooded area, said Capt. Von Beals, with Travis County Emergency Services District 4. Another three people came walking out a few minutes later, he said.
Madison Allen and Isaac Dill said they were asleep in a trailer on property in the 9600 block of FM 973 when they woke up to the sound of a car crash. The couple then discovered water was flowing into their temporary home and they grabbed their pets and left.
Firefighters helped them and others who were staying on the property to cross the creek to dry land, Allen and Dill said.
“We’re always thankful we didn’t have anyone injured,” Beals said.
Allen, Dill and others were trying to get back onto the property, but for most of Sunday morning, FM 973 was closed from Texas 130 northeast to south of Manor due to flooding.
That was just one of five water rescues that occurred overnight while storms deluged creeks and low-lying roads in northeastern Travis County, according to emergency responders.
Stock said quickly rising water marked the FM 973 rescue, but a swift current in an earlier rescue required STAR Flight to airlift a stranded motorist.
Firefighters arrived at the 10000 block of Gregg Lane north of Manor just after 1 a.m. to assist the driver, who was on the roof of a vehicle. Stock said a water rescue firefighter was able to get the person harnessed, but then had to step back because the current was so strong. STAR Flight then picked up the motorist, who was not injured.
“We can’t say it enough: ‘Turn around, don’t drown.’ Fortunately, these were successful rescues,” Stock said.
The storms wreaked havoc with power throughout Austin, affecting about 1,200 customers in small outages overnight, according to Austin Energy. At about 5 a.m., the storms likely damaged insulators on equipment and cut power in Northwest Austin to more than 1,400 customers in the Anderson Mill area near FM 620. Power was reportedly restored within three hours.
Forecasters say Central Texas’ recent weather cycle is set to continue later in the week, with dry, sunny weekdays until another chance for showers and storms Friday as another cold front moves through.