What caused the fatal Guadalupe River flood in 1987?

10 children killed in flash flood while crossing river in bus, van

COMFORT, Texas – On the morning of July 17, 1987, the final bus and van leaving Pot O’ Gold Camp was hit by a wall of water as they tried to escape the quickly-rising Guadalupe River. 

Ten of the 43 campers never made it across. 

The storm that caused the flooding began the night before across the border in Mexico. According to a National Weather Service report, a weak low pressure system crossed the border, dropping nearly 6 inches of rain in Brackettville, about 30 miles east of Del Rio. As the weather complex moved northeast, it seemed to have disappeared off the radar.

30 YEARS LATER: When the Guadalupe River turned deadly

However, by around midnight on July 17, the low pressure began to interact with a rare July frontal boundary between Kerrville and Junction. The system reignited and dropped almost a foot of rain near the headwaters of the Guadalupe River, 10 miles west of Hunt, in less than five hours. While some areas of Kerr County saw 11 inches of rain, near the camp only a few inches of rain fell.

The first flash flood warning was issued around 1:45 a.m., with a river flood warning coming just 45 minutes later.

The NWS report said there was only one rescue in Kerr County that night. A man, whose home was built on stilts 20 feet above the river, awoke to his truck hitting the side of his home. It would take rescue crews hours before they were able to get a ladder over the water to save him.

VIDEO: Paul Venema: 'It was a chilling experience,' veteran reporter details what it was like to cover the flood of 1987

The river crested at 29.3 feet in Hunt with flows reaching 53,700 cubic-feet per second, it more than doubled in speed in Comfort, peaking at 31.5 feet and the water moving at 130,000 cfs. 



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