Service Assessment

South Texas Floods

October 17-22, 1998

flood_tx.gif (153516 bytes)

doc_bk2.gif (1944 bytes)U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Silver Spring, Maryland

Cover: San Antonio, Texas, fire department rescuing a man who had been trapped on top of his car for 2 hours Saturday morning, October 17, 1998. (Photograph by Morris Goen/San Antonio Express-News Staff Photographer. Copyright © 1998 San Antonio Express-News.)

Table of Contents

Service Assessment Team
Service Assessment Summary
Facts, Findings, and Recommendations
Appendix A

noaa2.gif (5108 bytes)U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
William M. Daley, Secretary
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
D. James Baker, Administrator
National Weather Service
John J. Kelly, Jr., Assistant Administrator


Torrential rains over south and southeast Texas during the weekend of October 17-18, 1998, led to widespread and deadly flooding. A total of 31 people died during this event, and property damage estimates approached three quarters of a billion dollars.

The event occurred within areas served by three National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Weather Service (NWS) field forecast offices and by one NOAA/NWS River Forecast Center. Due to the magnitude of this flood event, a Service Assessment Team was assembled to examine all aspects of the warning services provided by NWS offices to the citizens and public officials of the areas affected.

This Service Assessment highlights successful operational procedures and identifies shortcomings noted during this event. Findings and recommendations are presented which will be used in our ongoing efforts to continually improve NWS services for the citizens of this country.

kelly_sg.gif (1184 bytes)

John J. Kelly, Jr.

Assistant Administrator for Weather Services

February 1999


AWIPS Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System
CDT Central Daylight Time
cfs cubic feet per second
CWA County Warning Area
DCP Data Collection Platform
EMWIN Emergency Managers Weather Information Network
FFA Flash Flood Watch
GBRA Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority
GOES Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite
HAM Amateur Radio Operator
HPC Hydrological Prediction Center
HSA Hydrologic Service Area
HWO Hazardous Weather Outlook
LAG/K Lag and K Hydrologic Routing Procedure
LCRA Lower Colorado River Authority
LMRFC Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center
MIC Meteorologist in Charge
NCEP National Centers for Environmental Prediction
NEXRAD Next Generation Weather Radar
NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NWRSAME NOAA Weather Radio Specific Area Message Encoder
NWS National Weather Service
NWSFO NEXRAD Weather Service Forecast Office
NWSO NEXRAD Weather Service Office
NWSRFS National Weather Service River Forecast System
NWWS NOAA Weather Wire Service
QPF Quantitative Precipitation Forecast
ROML Regional Operations Manual Letter
SFD State Forecast Discussion
SHEF Standard Hydrometeorological Exchange Format
SPC Storm Prediction Center
SRH Southern Regional Headquarters
USGS U.S. Geological Survey
WGRFC West Gulf River Forecast Center

Service Assessment Team

This Service Assessment Team was formally activated on October 26, 1998, with all team members traveling to Texas on October 27. The team remained in Texas through November 1, collecting information pertaining to the flooding from a wide variety of sources, both within and outside the NWS. Before leaving Texas, the team completed the first draft of the report. After completion of the field work, the team continued to gather and review information before preparing the final version of this Service Assessment.

The team was comprised of the following individuals:
Stephen Harned Team Leader, Meteorologist In Charge (MIC), Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) Weather Service Forecast Office (NWSFO) Raleigh, North Carolina
David Reed Hydrologist In Charge, Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC), Slidell, Louisiana
Larry Eblen Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWSFO Austin/San Antonio, Texas
Treste' Huse Service Hydrologist, NEXRAD Weather Service Office (NWSO) Rapid City, South Dakota
Curtis Carey Southern Region Headquarters (SRH), Public Affairs Officer, Ft. Worth, Texas

The team would like to thank those people with the following entities who took the time to be interviewed by team members while in Texas. Valuable information was gathered during these interviews.

NOAA/NWS Offices
West Gulf River Forecast Center (WGRFC)
NWSFO Austin/San Antonio
NWSO Houston/Galveston
NWSO Corpus Christi
State of Texas
Assistant State Emergency Coordinator
County Emergency Managers
Bexar, Caldwell, Dewitt, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Jackson, Wilson
City Emergency Managers
Luling, New Braunfels, San Antonio
River Authorities
Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA)
Lavaca-Navidad River Authority
Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA)
Federal Officials
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) -- Austin
USGS -- San Antonio
Corps of Engineers -- Canyon Lake
Other City/County/State Officials
Gonzales City Manager
Gonzales City Police Chief
Hays County Fire Marshal
Hays County Sheriff
Seguin Fire Chief
Victoria County Judge
Victoria City Fire Chief
San Antonio Express-News
KSAT-TV -- San Antonio
KMOL-TV -- San Antonio
KWEX-TV (Spanish Language) -- San Antonio
KAVU-TV -- Victoria
KVET/KASE Radio -- Austin
Other valuable contributors include:
Larry Wenzel, Hydrometeorological Technician, NWS Headquarters, Office of Hydrology, Silver Spring, Maryland
Linda Kremkau, Technical Editor, NWS Headquarters, Office of Meteorology, Silver Spring, Maryland

Return to Table of Contents