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Hermine floods its way through Austin

Thursday, September 9, 2010 by Michael Kanin

Hurricane Hermine may not ultimately rank among the most devastating storms to visit Austin, but it certainly left its mark. As of Wednesday evening, that mark included at least one missing person, a host of rescued citizens, and widespread reports of damage.


For the Austin Water Utility, a lightning strike at the Scotland Wells wastewater pumping station shut down power and sent an estimated 100,000 gallons of sewage into Bull Creek. As of Wednesday afternoon, a bypass line had been constructed and was expected to start operating by that evening.


Another such station, near Lake Creek, suffered some flooding. Early indications were that the facility would need only a bit of cleanup.


Jill Mayfield, a spokesperson for the Austin Water Utility, told In Fact Daily that the amount of sewage that had spilled into Bull Creek was “at least 100,000 gallons.” That number, city Environmentalist Matteo Scoggins told In Fact Daily, poses a minimal environmental threat. “(It’s a) drop in the bucket,” he said. “(The water) is moving very quickly and (the sewage) is highly diluted.”


Watershed Protection Environmental Compliance Officer Stan Tindel echoed that sentiment. “We really don’t expect any adverse environmental impacts from the event,” he said.


According to a city spokesperson, the Davis Water Treatment plant suffered electrical problems when water made its way into a transformer cabinet. The plant lost power for about eight hours as staff worked to correct the problem. With reservoirs full when the outage occurred, however, no water needed to be pumped from the plant.


The Ullrich Water Treatment plant also lost power when it was struck by lightning. It was able to use stored water and supplemental pumping from the Davis plant during repairs.


The region has a long history of flash floods. In November of 2001, some parts of the region saw as much as 15 inches of rain, and more than 800 buildings across the area were damaged. Other infamous water events include the Memorial Day 1981 flood, which killed 13 people and caused $36 million in damage.


Rainfall totals for this week’s storm have been reported at 15 inches and up.

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