Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 2000 Page: 22
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Great floods on the Rio Grande, 1900-1999 * By Dr. Michael B. Collins
History shows the
Rio Grande and its
tributaries in Texas to
be quite flood prone...
and there are signs
that history will
ain had poured steadily for
more than 20 hours on the
rocky rangeland and Brotherton
near the mouth of the Pecos
River. As he had done repeatedly during
the downpour, Perry Brotherton went onto
his front porch and used his binoculars to
check the seven-inch rain gauge on a fence
post between the house and garage. Three
times, when he saw that it was full, he had
put on his slicker and hat, made his way
through the several inches of sheet wash
rushing across the bare rock and ground that
surrounded the house, and emptied the
gauge. On his fourth trip, the water rushing
across his path sounded different than it had
earlier- different and ominous. Brotherton
hesitated and returned to the house without
emptying the gauge. It had completely
filled four times (28 inches) and, although
it was tapering off, the rain continued for
another several hours. Brotherton told me
in 1967 that he estimated that it rained between
29 and 30 inches in about 30 hours
on June 26-28 of 1954. He also recalled being
thankful that he had returned to the
house without going all the way to the gauge
on that fourth trip because when the sheet
wash receded, it revealed a gully more than
a foot wide and several feet deep where he
would have stepped.
At Langtry, ten miles west of
Brotherton's place, the Southern Pacific
Sunset Limited passenger train was
stranded between railroad bridges that had
washed out. The 226 passengers and another
140 motorists outnumbered Langtry
residents by almost four to one. Shelter,
food, and water were in short supply, and
since highway bridges were also out along
U.S. 90 in both directions, helicopters
from Gary Air Force Base in San Marcos
were used to evacuate the travelers.
Heavy rains fell over much of the tributary
systems of the Pecos and Devils' rivers.
As water converged in the deep canyon of
the lowermost stretch of the Pecos, a flood
crest of some 80 to 90 feet above normal
flow was reached. This flow is calculated to
have been close to 1,000,000 cubic feet of
water per second--eight times greater than
any Pecos River flood gauged at Shumla over
the preceding 53 years. So much water was
coming down the Pecos that it flowed upstream
on the Rio Grande for a time.
HERITAGE * 22 * SUMMER 2000
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 2000, periodical, Summer 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45389/m1/22/: accessed November 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.