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JBSA reminds drivers to watch for flooded roadways

By Mary Nell Sanchez | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Sept. 30, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —

September skies not only opened up and brought some much needed rainfall throughout the Joint Base San Antonio community, but it also brought in the potential of flooded roadways.

Once again, authorities want to remind drivers to steer clear of certain parts of roadways that could result in injury to you and damage to your vehicle.

“I think JBSA has a real good hold on when we get flooding to deter people from going to those areas,” said JBSA Community Planner Gabriel Gonzales, who has worked at JBSA-Lackland for 30 years.

The areas under constant watch of the Emergency Management Team include JBSA-Lackland — comprised of Kelly Field, Medina Annex and the main base; JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, JBSA-Randolph, JBSA-Camp Bullis, Seguin Air Field and some recreational property at Canyon Lake.

Gonzales says some of the highest risk flood areas on the installations are the main creeks that go through them. For JBSA-Lackland, it is Leon Creek which goes right between Kelly Field and the main base. At Medina Annex, Medio Creek is the culprit.

“It has a real large flood prone area. In those areas, we cannot build any structures,” said Gonzales. “We’re allowed to train in them, but we cannot build any structures.”

At the Medina Annex on Leon Creek, authorities found themselves tackling a serious flooding event Aug. 16, 2007. A parking lot was totally flooded with approximately 60 cars underwater, said Gonzales. As a result, the bridge going from across Medio Creek also went under forcing an alternate gate normally not used for public access to be opened.

“We had to vacate all civilians and military through that route,” added Gonzales. “There wasn’t time to get the cars out in time because the water came in so fast. That parking lot is no longer used.”

Another area in the 100-year flood plain at JBSA-Lackland is Kelly Bridge. Gonzales said waters from Leon Creek have caused the bridge to go underwater several times.

“One year, the water went as high as the horse stables. We had to vacate the horses out of there,” said Gonzales. “The rushing waters took the pavement and rolled it like a tootsie roll.”

As a result, EMT had to repave about three-hundred feet of road that was destroyed.

Another bridge that gets shut down frequently when it floods is the Hall St. Bridge. It crosses Leon Creek from Kelly Field to Security Hill.

“When we get rain, that bridge is always the one that gets shuts down first depending on the rains we’re getting,” said Gonzales.

It is one of the areas currently being evaluated and will be discussed at an upcoming traffic safety group meeting, according to JBSA safety manager Travis Kilpack.

Almost two years ago a life, not a car, was lost at JBSA-Camp Bullis. A Department of Defense contractor died in the early morning hours of Oct. 30, 2015 when he attempted a low water crossing.

“Once the rainwater starts to hit your vehicle, the vehicle is going to start moving and it’s going to act like a floating device, so it’s going to float away into a deeper area,” said Gonzales.

At JBSA-Randolph, authorities say minor flooding concerns near the golf course exists, as well as puddling of roads near drains due to the amount of water rushing down on the flight line.

The area of concern at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston is Salado Creek. Depending on the amount of water raising the lake, there is flooding on the beach area of Canyon Lake, according to Kilpack.

Seguin Airfield, which isn’t in the flood plain, has some flooding near the south gate, but that’s because there isn’t a road there and the ground erodes when floodwaters arrive, said Kilpack.

As rain fell around the JBSA community the last week of September, motorists experienced instances of heavy downpours which made for intense driving. If rain turn to flooding, Gonzales says a well-equipped team is ready.

“We have an emergency management program with key people from several organizations including meteorologists,” said Gonzales.

The Texas Department of Transportation reminds motorists to “Turn Around Don’t Drown” in hopes of educating drivers before they do something they may regret.

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard, according to TxDOT. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. A small car can be carried away with just twelve inches of water, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.

If motorists don’t heed the warnings and blockades, the road ahead could be dangerous. Gonzales says the reason is simple.

“I think they feel it cannot happen to me. Oh, it won’t happen to me,” Gonzales adds.