In 2018, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hood, Texas identified the need for a comprehensive Flood Warning Program and engaged Texas A&M AgriLife Research to help address the installation’s high-water safety needs. The program addresses multiple flood alert and preparation topics including management, documentation, data collection, and training. A multi-agency “Tiger Team,” composed of Fort Hood leadership, civilian experts, and Texas A&M AgriLife researchers is working in collaboration to develop products and procedures aimed at reducing flood and high-water risks at Fort Hood.
Fort Hood is located on the northern edge of the Texas Hill Country in southwestern Bell and southeastern Coryell counties. The area is characterized by rolling hills, shallow soils, woodlands, prairies, and rocky streams that are highly conducive to flash flooding. Fort Hood also lies in the middle of a curve that follows the Balcones Escarpment from Dallas to San Antonio and west to Uvalde. Here warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico often collides with cold fronts from the north resulting in atmospheric instability that produce heavy rainfall and rapid storm runoff. This area has the nickname “Flash Flood Alley” and carries a heavy burden of unfortunate accidents and loss-of-life statistics.
Flash flooding events pose an ever-present threat at Fort Hood where both military and civilian traffic must pass through numerous low water crossings daily. Most of the time these streams flow with waters less than a foot or two in depth but during periods of heavy rainfall they rapidly increase to dangerous, impassable conditions. During storm events Fort Hood officials from multiple agencies interact to consult a variety of data sources, evaluate rapidly evolving conditions, provide advisories and warnings, and coordinate response actions.
As floods are not an everyday occurrence, people often forget their devastating effects; remining constantly vigilant is the most difficult part of operating a flood alert system. Texas A&M AgriLife is assisting Fort Hood officials with the refinement and documentation of high-water safety procedures to provide long-term stability of Fort Hood’s Flood Warning Program.
Provide accurate and consistent information, in useful forms, to military trainers, Fort Hood officials, Fort Hood families, other agencies, and the public to facilitate making flood and high-water safety decisions before, during, and after storm events to reduce the risk of property damage, injuries, and loss of life.
Stream Gauge Network on Fort Hood
One tool in Fort Hood’s Flood Warning Program is a Stream Gauge Network which provides continuous near real-time information from key locations. Due to the terrain and drainage patterns, Fort Hood stream gauges are concentrated on the west and south side to provide information regarding stream flows entering the installation. Cowhouse Creek bisects Fort Hood and runs west to east through the middle of the training areas north of the cantonment. Upstream from the installation it drains nearly 2300 square miles, an area larger than the state of Delaware. Heavy rainfall 75 miles north in Hamilton County can produce flood conditions in the Cowhouse at Fort Hood under clear skies.
Locating and monitoring gauges at installation inflows provides a small lead time to issue alerts during developing flood events. Downstream gauges on the two major stream networks (Cowhouse and House Creeks) allow officials to track water movement during events, dispatch field crews, and make road-closure decisions.
Gauge information is available to the public on-line through the USGS Texas Water Dashboard https://txpub.usgs.gov/txwaterdashboard/