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Lake Travis Has Taken On More Water In One Week Than Austin Uses In Four Years

The Lower Colorado River Authority is advising residents along Lake Travis to be wary of rising water as levels at Lake Travis are forecast to reach near-record highs.

At a press conference today, LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson called the rise in lake levels "historic." The authority opened four floodgates on Mansfield Dam to release water from Lake Travis, which is 134 percent full. Wilson said LCRA likely will need to open four more by midday Thursday. Eight open floodgates would be a record at Mansfield, surpassing a 1957 record of six gates.

RELATED | In Marble Falls, Evacuees Wonder What's Next After Flooding

Wilson said LCRA estimates Lake Travis took on more water in a week than the entire city of Austin would use in four years, rising 21 feet from noon yesterday to noon today.

LCRA began releasing upstream floodwaters from its dams on the Highland Lakes yesterday, after rainfall and historic flooding in parts of the Hill Country west of Austin along the Llano River. Floodgates are open at Buchanan, Wirtz, Starcke, Mansfield and Tom Miller dams along the Highland Lakes. Water is being directed through the spillway at Inks Dam, which has no floodgates.

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
The Lower Colorado River Authority opened floodgates at the Mansfield Dam to release water from Lake Travis, which is 134 percent full.

LCRA's forecast suggests water levels at Lake Travis could rise to 705 to 710 feet above sea level. The all-time record for lake levels at Travis was set in 1991 during flooding on Christmas Day, when the lake topped out at 710.44 feet above sea level.

Around 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Lake Travis was just over 698 feet above sea level. The lake could reach as high as 700 feet. 

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
A crowd watches water pour through the Mansfield Dam.

The LCRA closed lakes Travis, Marble Falls, LBJ, Inks and Buchanan until further notice, and the Austin Fire Department has issued a ban on recreation in Austin waterways – including Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin, Barton Springs Pool and the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

The Colorado River in Austin is nearly 5 feet shy from flood stage, but the National Weather Service does not forecast the river to rise much higher. The service forecasts as much as 2 inches of rain in parts of Central Texas through Friday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a state of emergency in 18 counties in Texas as a result of the flooding – including Travis, Bastrop, Burnet, Williamson and Llano.

This story has been updated.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
Nadia Hamdan is a local news anchor and host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT.
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