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More Rain Expected As Flooding Continues In Texas


And to another story now in Texas where near record floodwaters are pushing through the central part of the state. The governor has declared a state of emergency in 18 counties. In Austin, officials say they may need to open more floodgates than they have ever opened before, which could protect the city - could also send more water downstream. Mose Buchele of member station KUT reports.

MOSE BUCHELE, BYLINE: Central Texas has been getting a lot of rain for weeks now. This flood actually started days ago with storms in the hill country northwest of Austin. That water fed creeks and rolled into the Llano River. By the time it got to the small community of Kingsland, Texas, Tuesday, it had turned into a surge of water strong enough to take out the main bridge into town.



BUCHELE: This is tape from Austin's KEYE-TV.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We're seeing pieces of the bridge out here flipping. Leslie, if you can get a shot of that - the pieces of the bridge just flipping over.

BUCHELE: The river rose fast. It flooded homes and Kingsland, joined the Colorado River and got bigger. In Marble Falls, Jonathan Hammond watched it rush by from the banks.

JONATHAN HAMMOND: This is just crazy, absolutely crazy. We went and looked at the dam this morning. I've never seen any water like that ever.

BUCHELE: Loretta Higgins said she was rescued by her son, who carried her and her dog to safety through waist-high water.

LORETTA HIGGINS: I was in my little trailer. The next thing I know, the water rushed up to it. It was that the windows, and my car and my trailer just went.

BUCHELE: The reservoir above Austin called Lake Travis has captured more floodwater in a week than the city uses in four years. It's running out of room. If it gets much higher, it could overtop and flood hundreds of homes. So the group that manages the reservoir say they may need to open more flood gates than ever before in the coming days. Phil Wilson is general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority.


PHIL WILSON: People need to take every precaution to protect their safety and their property.

BUCHELE: This flooding comes just weeks after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated its data on Texas and warned that severe flooding is much more likely in this area than it previously thought. Climate change has a part in that, says Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service.

VICTOR MURPHY: As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water. And when that gets wrung out, there's more moisture to wring out, therefore there's heavier rain that can fall.

BUCHELE: If officials in Austin do open more flood gates, they hope to limit flooding in the city to mostly streets and parkland. But communities downstream could see more severe impacts. They say much depends on the weather over the next few days, and rain is in the forecast. For NPR News, I'm Mose Buchele in Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mose Buchele is the Austin-based broadcast reporter for KUT's NPR partnership StateImpact Texas . He has been on staff at KUT 90.5 since 2009, covering local and state issues. Mose has also worked as a blogger on politics and an education reporter at his hometown paper in Western Massachusetts. He holds masters degrees in Latin American Studies and Journalism from UT Austin.