CREDIT: AP/ Tamir Kalifa
Austin has declared a state of disaster in the wake of extreme flooding in Texas that left five people dead last week.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell sent a letter to Gov. Rick Perry Monday outlining the region’s “critical need” for state and federal aid to cope with the aftermath of the flooding. Central Texas was drenched by more than a foot of rain last Thursday, with rainfall levels reaching 14 inches in some regions. In Austin alone, 1,100 homes were affected by the flooding, with 324 sustaining “major damage.” As of Monday about 125 tons of debris had been collected, and as of Sunday, more than 500 people had checked into the Red Cross shelter in Austin.
Travis County, where Austin is located, also signed a disaster declaration Monday, as did Hays County.
Central Texas had been in the midst of one of the worst droughts in its history leading up to Thursday’s extreme rainfall, but unfortunately, the vast quantities of rain weren’t enough to ease the drought in some regions.
“The rain fell so quickly that a lot of the water ran off rather than recharging needed surface and groundwater,” Hays County Judge Judge Bert Cobb said Monday. “The official drought still remains so residents are encouraged to use water wisely.”
Extreme rainfall events like the one in Central Texas have long been predicted to become more frequent in many parts of the world as the climate warms, as have droughts. A 2012 report found that in the U.S., extreme precipitation events increased in frequency by 30 percent from 1948 to 2011. In September, “Biblical” amounts of rain fell in Colorado, leading to widespread flooding. And Texas alone has experienced multiple flooding incidents this year — in May, three people were killed after 10 inches of rain fell in San Antonio.