As Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas Gulf Coast, officials in Northwest Austin and Williamson County are organizing and preparing for heavy rainfall and floods.
Harvey, now a category 3 system with wind speeds from 111 to 130 mph with potential to hit category 4 at 135 mph winds, is predicted to hit landfall late Friday or early Saturday. The coast could see as much as 35 inches of rain and “catastrophic” storm-surge flooding, meteorologists said.
A hurricane hasn’t hit Texas soil since 2008. Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in 30 counties in a press conference Friday, and requested a presidential disaster declaration related to the storm and encouraged Texans in coastal areas to evacuate their homes.
Northwest Austin and Williamson County can expect to see anywhere between 5 to 12 inches of rain, and wind speeds between 40 and 50 mph in addition to flash flooding, said Steve Smart, National Weather Service meteorologist.
Cedar Park officials are setting up their emergency operations center and they’re in standby, ready to activate mode, said Jennie Huerta, city spokesperson.
“We have police and street crews on standby ready to work throughout the weekend, and however long it takes to ensure the safety of everyone in Cedar Park,” she said. “It’s all hands on deck, and we’re here to serve the community.”
Huerta said gates at Cedar Park Drive, Peach Tree Lane, Sumac Lane, and Cyprus Lane where there are low water crossings have all been closed off for safety. There were no planned closings of city buildings at this time, and they will continue to monitor the storm as it progresses into the area.
“We are discouraging everyone from driving during heavy rainfall,” Huerta said. “Avoid being out and about. If people must drive, we encourage them to turn around at low water crossings, don’t drown.”
Huerta said in addition to local media and their social media accounts, one of the most important tools the city has for public information is CP/AlertMe. Residents can sign up for updates and alerts through the service.
Corey Ryan, spokesperson for Leander ISD, said they are monitoring the storms but plan on having a normal first day of school start on time Monday as planned.
Leander city officials are monitoring the storm conditions for the area and have identified a handful of locations that may need to be blocked off should flooding occur, said Michael Neu, city spokesperson.
“Our police and fire personnel are staffed up for anything to be ready,” He said. “We’re essentially in standby mode, and monitoring updates from the National Weather Service.”
Leander has not activated their Emergency Operations Center yet.
Most of Leander's Parks and Recreation events this weekend have been cancelled. These include the Friday Night Scramble at Crystal Falls Golf Club, Leander Little League tryouts at Benbrook Ranch Park (Saturday afternoon), and Movies in the Park at Benbrook Ranch Park (Saturday night).
WilCo Emergency Management officials are closely monitoring the weather and are encouraging all residents to do the same. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Williamson County through Monday morning. Williamson County will open its Emergency Operations Center at 6 a.m. on Saturday to monitor the weather and community needs, according to a press release.
In advance of any area flooding, Williamson County Road and Bridge is staging barricades so that they can easily close flooded roads and low water crossings. Personnel are on alert status to assist as needed.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office will be increasing staffing, too, the press release said. Patrol deputies will be issued personal floatation devices so that they can quickly assist if flooding occurs, and the Swift Water Rescue Team is on call and ready to assist with water rescues. The team’s HoverCraft also is ready if needed.
All Austin Community College District (ACC) campuses and centers will close Saturday and Sunday as a precaution for students, said Jessica Vess, associate director of communications. If the weather further impacts operations, updates will be posted to the college’s homepage, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
The Lower Colorado River Authority has closed lakes Bastrop and Fayette to recreational boating because of dangerous conditions caused by Hurricane Harvey.
LCRA is closely monitoring the storm and has staff on duty round-the-clock at the River Operations Center and each of the dams along the Highland Lakes in case floodgate operations are needed, according to a release.
Matagorda Bay Nature Park, Oak Thicket Park and Park Prairie also are closed. For more information, see the LCRA Park Alerts page.