Historical Flooding in Seguin
Seguin, Texas is no stranger to flooding. The normally tranquil Guadalupe River can turn into a highly destructive force and is recognized as one of the top three most dangerous rivers in the state of Texas.Several major destructive floods have occurred in our city over the years - in 1838, 1848, 1868, 1872, 1906, 1921, 1936, 1952, 1972, 1973, 1978, 1989, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2015, 2018, 2020 and 2021.
Floyd McKee, a native of Seguin and author of Snapshots of Seguin History, chronicled the following history of some of Seguin's most destructive floods in the Seguin Gazette newspaper:
In a historically recorded major flood in 1868, the water rose to cover what is now the Seguin fairgrounds with a wall of water 8 feet deep. This flood water rose half way up where Juan Seguin’s burial site is now located.
During the Texas Flood of 1913, the Guadalupe and Trinity Rivers left their banks, and the Brazos River and the Colorado River joined to flood more than 3,000 square miles of land and cause the deaths of at least 177 people and massive property damage ($3,436,144 in the Brazos Valley alone).
Major flooding brought death and destruction of greater magnitude than previously experienced. The floods of 1913 and again in 1921 were the catalyst that would cause the state of Texas to attempt to tame the Brazos River.
One major flood after the turn of the century happened in September 1921 when a gentle rain began to fall in the central part of Texas and the Guadalupe River Valley. This rain was great news because it was bringing the end of a severe Texas drought of more than three months.
The long drought had dried up the smaller streams and stock tanks, causing heavy losses to farmers and ranchers. By the next day, the weather bureau had measured almost 2 inches of rain. It was a welcomed rain and pleasant surprise. However, the word pleasant soon changed to unpleasant.
On Sept. 6, a tropical storm was developing in the Gulf of Mexico and soon began lashing the lower Rio Grande Valley with high winds and a heavy downpour.
From the valley, the storm moved inland toward Seguin and New Braunfels. By Sept. 8, the rain volume had increased, lingering over the Hill Country north of San Antonio, at that time a city of almost 175,000 people.
One of the major causes of flash floods on the Guadalupe is the fact that the rocky ground of the Hill Country can absorb very little water, resulting in heavy, rapid run-off, moving downhill into draws and creeks. This caused the Olmos Creek and San Antonio River to quickly flood out of their banks and the flooding of downtown San Antonio.
On Sept. 9, the lingering storm grew heavier through the night and soon dumped nearly 2 feet of rain in the Guadalupe Valley. Seguin, in 1921, had grown to a community of 3,700 residents and Guadalupe County had almost 30,000 residents. Many of their homes would be severely damaged in the following days.
On Sept. 10, the rain again increased in intensity. The low-lying areas quickly were flooded and more than 500 people in the area were rescued by quick responders and soldiers from Fort Sam Houston. Many people remained in trees throughout the night awaiting rescue.
Along the Guadalupe River, entire families were washed away in New Braunfels. People who were within 25 feet of rescue were washed away and drowned. More than 12 people drowned and 25 people were unaccounted for the next day. More than 3,000 residents in New Braunfels suffered heavy damage to their homes and 50 homes in Seguin were flooded out.
On July 17, 1987, a sudden flash flood swept a bus full of children away at a low water crossing near the town of Comfort. The children were attending church camp, with more than 300 children from various churches attending. On the night of July 16 and into July 17, almost 12 inches of rain fell across the Hill Country, triggering immense flooding on the Guadalupe River. The camp was scheduled to end on the 17th and the children were headed home that day. About 9 am, children were loaded into buses and the buses were directed to a low-water crossing. While most of the busses managed to make it across, one bus was swept away. The bus carried 39 children ranging from age 8 to 17.
The bus had made it partially across before stalling in the rising water. An attempt was made to form a human chain to get the children to safety so they could reach shore hand in hand. As this was attempted, a wall of water broke the chain and swept them all away. Rescuers managed to save all except two children who were confirmed drowned and eight still missing. Six bodies were later recovered and two bodies were never found.
Heavy rain began falling in Comal County around 8 pm on May 11, 1972. At midnight, 16+ plus inches poured upon the Guadalupe River midway between New Braunfels and the Canyon Lake Dam. The first flood waters rushed into New Braunfels from Blieders Creek and flowed into the Comal River at Landa Park. The flood waters filled the Comal and overflowed into the Guadalupe River, where they roared towards Seguin.
Rain fell hard and fast all day long, causing the Guadalupe River to breach its banks and pour into the nearby cities of New Braunfels, Seguin, and San Marcos.
At least 11 people died as a result of the disaster - five in Seguin, two in New Braunfels, and the rest in San Marcos. Many more residents were injured, and at least 25 were unaccounted for after it was all said and done.
The flood of 1998 was “the most significant flooding in recorded history downstream from the Canyon Lake Dam.” This flood is the only flood to overflow the dam spillway, carving out what is now called the Canyon Lake Gorge. This flood had the volume of more than 500 million acre feet that occurs on a frequency of 500 years.
Between October 17 & 18, 1998, rain totals of up to 22 inches were recorded across central and southern Texas, which led to the flood of record in southern Texas. A total of 31 perished during the event, 17 of which were found in flooded vehicles.
Seguin Mayor Mark Stautzenberger declared an official state of emergency and petitioned the state for assistance from the Texas National Guard and the Department of Public Safety. Damage approached $750 million.
Initial crest expectations for the Guadalupe River were at 25 feet, but that number climbed throughout the day. When the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise went to press on Saturday night, it was projected at 35 feet. It would crest on Sunday morning at 36.8 feet.
The South Central Texas Floods impacted our area from June 30 to July 7, 2002. Several counties over the Hill Country and around San Antonio received between 25 and 35 inches of rain during the period.
Floodwaters were to blame for 12 fatalities, damage to about 48,000 homes, and total damages estimated at around $1 billion. There were 24 counties designated as federal disaster areas.
High flows along the Guadalupe River produced the first ever flows over the emergency spillway at Canyon Lake since construction in 1968. Maximum flows of around 67,000 cubic feet per second over the Canyon Lake emergency spillway resulted in the creation of a downstream limestone gorge that was 1 mile long and up to 70 feet deep.
Many of the residents that lost homes along the Guadalupe River in 1998 had rebuilt, only to see their homes carried downstream in 2002.
Flooding on June 10, 2010 left eight Seguin homes damaged by water, and about 15 to 20 others had water in the garage areas
In Cuero, the Guadalupe River likely crested at 29 feet, 5 feet above the flood level; in Gonzales, the river reached 39 feet, well over the 31-foot flood stage.
The last flash flood on the Guadalupe occurred on May 12, 2020. Parts of Startzville, Canyon Lake and New Braunfels saw up to 12 inches of rain on that Tuesday, while the rest of the valley saw only 4 to 7 inches. Portions of New Braunfels and low-level areas of Seguin were flooded when the river rose nearly 8 feet. The flood of 2020 dumped 31 inches of rain and and caused more than $1 billion in damage along the river.
During the night of October 14, 2021 a band of strong storms pass over Seguin and dumped 5”+ of rain on the area. The downpour caused minor flooding of the Guadalupe River and its tributaries.