Officials: Flood gauges knocked out by rushing waters - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Officials: Flood gauges knocked out by rushing waters

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The timeline of what information the city knew and how they reacted during last week's flooding varies, depending on which rep you hear from.

What we do know for sure is city reps are admitting now that some of their rain gauges were knocked out of commission for some time during the flooding.

It only took 15 minutes for water levels near Onion Creek to rise 11 feet.

"The flow rate at that location was two times the normal flow at Niagara Falls," said Kevin Shunk, a city flood plan administrator.

He says early warning systems depend on three things; location, time and the amount of rain that falls.

Shunk added, "You can't predict a flood stage if you don't have data."

He says on Halloween, two water gauges that predict levels for southeast Austin stopped working.

"Because we didn't have the prediction of where it was going to go, all we could go off of was people telling us how high it was at that point," said Shunk.

This is a different explanation for a lack of warnings compared to what Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

Acevedo said, "We relied too much, me, on technology and gauges that were not working properly instead of relying on you."

Deputy City Manager, Michael McDonald said, "As soon as the calls started coming in we were responding."

I asked, "So then you disagree with his comment?"

"Yea, yea, well...his understanding at the time was that the gauges had malfunctioned, but they were knocked out and that's not his area," added McDonald.

Shunk said, "We don't just rely on censors. We don't just rely on computer systems to tell us things."

The timeline about when door-to-door help started was another point of concern during a recent meeting for flood victims.

On Tuesday night, McDonald said, "The Austin Fire Department, during that night, rescued individuals in the Onion Creek area and walked door-to-door to try and evacuate homes."

Acevedo added, "That was not accurate. He was given inaccurate information."

"The sequencing on when the fire department began to contact residents, the sequencing was wrong on the information I was given," admitted McDonald.

"There's a certain point in time where you have to make the decision, are you going to tell people to evacuate or are you going to tell people to shelter in place," Shunk said, "In Texas, 75 percent of our flood fatalities are in cars, so we don't want get people in their cars and send them out on the road in an area that's flooded by water all over the place."

With water levels rising all the way up to 41 feet, city reps say there wasn't enough time to get everyone evacuated.

Reps say the decision to evacuate happens at the emergency operations center, between the fire department, the duty officer and flood warning personnel.

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