Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 2000 Page: 23
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Hard hit in the short term
by rain and flash floods were
many tributary streams,
ranches, and the communities
of Dryden, Langtry, Comstock,
and especially Ozona where 14
people lost their lives. Over
the next several days, the resulting
flood crest set flood
level records and caused extensive
damage at towns on
both sides of the Rio Grande
from Del Rio to Falcon Dam.
Every railroad and auto bridge
between Del Rio and Laredo
was taken out or damaged.
Newly completed Falcon Reservoir
filled in a few days to levels not expected
for years. The town of Zapata in Starr
County was being relocated out of the Falcon
Reservoir basin on a timetable that
assumed a gradual filling of the lake. Instead,
waters rose abruptly and stranded
people and their belongings in old Zapata.
Officially, rainfall amounts of only eight
to 13 inches were recorded, but individuals
reported readings of 20 to 22 inches
along with Perry Brotherton's 29 or 30
inches. There is no doubt that this is the
greatest flood on record for the lower Pecos
and one of the greatest on the Rio Grande.
Guy Skiles of Langtry told me of prehistoric
archeaological deposits that had remained
dry for two or three thousand years
in rockshelters high in the Pecos canyon
walls until swept away by the 1954 flood.
That would indicate this to be the greatest
flood in the last 2,000 to 3,000 years.
David S. Dibble and Peter C. Patton
found that even that estimate fell short of
the mark. In their examination of combined
geological and archeaological evidence
of this and countless other floods in
the prehistoric deposits of Arenosa Shelter
in the Pecos Canyon just above its
confluence with the Rio Grande, they concluded
that the 1954 flood was probably
the largest on the Pecos in 10,000 years.
Eleven years later, 26 people lost their
lives when a 15-foot high wall of water
crashed down Sanderson Canyon and
through the town of Sanderson shortly before
7 a.m. on Friday, June 11, 1965. More
than nine inches of rain had fallen in the
night on Sanderson Creek and Threemile
Draw that converge just west of the town;
most of that rain fell in two hours.
Eighteen inches of rain fell in 24 hours
on Del Rio and the San Felipe Creek drainage
on August 23 and 24, 1998. Fourteen
people died in the resulting flood in and
diec in the ftooa
that hit the town of
Ozona in 1954.
Rocky1 MsPhotos of Ozona on
pages 22-23 are
rado;Mt_ ~from the Crockett
near Del Rio. It is
such as these that
have made lasting
flooding on the
THE RIO GRANDE
The Rio Grande, its two main tributaries,
the Rio Conchos and the Pecos River,
and several smaller streams comprise a great
river system that drains about 130,000
square miles. The Rio Grande rises in the
Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado;
the Pecos River begins in the Rocky
Mountains of north central New Mexico,
and the Rio Conchos originates in the Sierra
Madre Occidental in Chihuahua and
Durango, Mexico. For most of its length
along the Texas border, the Rio Grande
occupies a relatively narrow valley or passes
through very narrow canyons. Near Los
Ebanos, Texas, the Rio Grande valley
spreads onto a broad, low delta. Floods
above Los Ebanos, in the constrained valleys,
tend to rise rapidly and flow swiftly
whereas on the delta below Los Ebanos,
flood waters spread out over a wide area,
rise slowly, and move almost imperceptibly.
HERITAGE * 23 * 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/m1/23/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.