SAN ANTONIO – It was this time14-years ago, when the rains just wouldn’t stop. Before it was over, the Flood of 1998 would claim 31-people’s lives and cause nearly a billion dollars in damage.
“I noticed it seeping into my front door,” said Ollie Otten. Otten was there in ’98, watching 20 inches of rainfall and watching the evacuations.
Otten said, “I noticed my neighbor, he had about four feet of water in his house.”
Water from the Leon, Olmos, Huebner and Salado creeks, combined with the Guadalupe and San Antonio River would gobble up neighborhoods as the waterways spilled their banks.
Seventeen of the 31-people who died in the Flood of ‘98 were trapped or stranded in their cars when some roads flooded within minutes.
And now, 14-years later, there’s hope some of these types of deaths can be prevented.
If there was a silver-lining in all those storm clouds, it was that local governments pooled resources with the federal government to design a state of the art flood-monitoring system.
The first of its kind in North America, the system is being developed by the San Antonio River Authority. It uses computer satellite maps and Doppler radar to track rushing water, giving emergency responders the inside track on where the water is going and how fast.
SARA watershed engineer Russell Persyn said, “If you think back to the late 1970s, ‘80s when we first started generating static maps to now where we’re able to show an animation in near-real-time.”
Experts said with information in minutes rather than hours, survival rates go up… as San Antonio awaits its next 100-year flood event.
The $14-million project is expected to go online next year.