Surge of water from dam release causes widespread flooding

An aerial view of the flooding in Gatesville's Faunt Le Roy Park. (Courtesy Justin Hoover)
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GATESVILLE, Texas (KWTX) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water late Thursday night from the Lake Proctor Dam and the surge raced down the Leon River toward Gatesville at 1,100 cubic feet per second, leaving the old Leon River bridge submerged just blocks from the Coryell County Courthouse.

Water was already covering the road in two spots on FM 116 between Gatesville and Copperas Cove and authorities were warning drivers to exercise caution.

Sheriff's deputies responded late Friday afternoon to a report a woman was stranded after trying to negotiate a low-water crossing on Bald Knob Road off FM 116, but learned the woman had been pulled to safety.

The Leon, which crested Thursday and had somewhat receded overnight, will be flowing with abandon again Friday afternoon, but Coryell County Judge John Firth said while the river might rise a bit, there’s no fear of inundation.

“We think we’ll have extra water, but we don’t think it will be as bad as earlier in the week,” Firth said.

Firth said one good thing is that Belton Lake is releasing more than 3,000 cubic feet per second, so there’s more flowing out than will flow in.

Much of Coryell County has been under water, or threatened by rising water, all week long.

Several county and Farm-to-Market roads in the county are closed because they’re impassable due to high water.

“Except for four or five houses in Mound that are cut off, we haven’t had anybody stranded and no serious injuries or deaths have been reported,” Firth said.

The Proctor Dam began operations in 1963 and was intended to be a flood control structure, the Texas State History webpage says.

It is among the oldest continually operating dams in Texas, and the only flood control structure on the Leon River up river from Gatesville and in addition provides flooding protection to 40,200 acres of agricultural land below the dam.

Proctor Lake can gather up to 310,100 acre-feet of flood storage capacity, but when the lake rose to a critical level, managers determined they’d have to open flood gates to lessen the size of the pool.

“Our neighbors in Burnet and San Saba, Lampasas and Travis counties are the ones who are hurting and they’re really in trouble if they get a lot more rain.”

Faunt Le Roy Park in Gatesville remains closed and is under water and drainage is backing up at Raby Park, just a few blocks away, as well.

Water still is ponding on streets and highways and the following roadways were barricaded Friday Morning: Farm-to-Market Road 1829, (Mother Neff) State Park Road 14, and State Highway 236 near the Iron Bridge State Wildlife Area.

Firth said he’s proud of the people in Coryell County who pitched in to help neighbors and have volunteered for projects to help.