Livin’ on the lake, occasionally

Fish, sightseers and driftwood replace drought for weekend

Bill Luckey steps around the barricade and begins to walk through his “front yard.”

It’s actually not his front yard. That stops back there at the fence. He’s walking down FM 908, but it begins to disappear under tons of water just a few yards away.

“Today I live on the lake,” he grins. “You want to see Lake Luckey?”

He only sees “Lake Luckey” on days like Friday. Heavy rainfall rumbled through Central Texas overnight Wednesday. While Rockdale only got 2.38 inches, according to KRXT-FM, almost a dozen inches fell on portions of Williamson and Travis Counties.

That’s the headwaters, and upstream drainage, for Brushy Creek, which barrels into Milam County from the northwest during heavy rainfalls, then comes up against the swollen San Gabriel River, which in turn gets clogged up with the swollen Little River.

Volleyball anyone? Water polo maybe on Friday at this location near San Gabriel River on FM 487. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Volleyball anyone? Water polo maybe on Friday at this location near San Gabriel River on FM 487. Reporter/Mike Brown Where does the excess water go? Pretty much everywhere in the bottomland complex that is Central Milam County.

Part of FM 487 was also under water on Friday, as the San Gabriel overflowed its banks in the lowlands around Valhalla Farms and at the bridge.

HISTORY LESSON—Luckey has seen it all before, many times. “I’ve lived here since 1981,” he said, reaching the last dry part of the pavement and looking back toward his fence. “I’ve seen it like this a lot of years, right up to my fence like it is now.”

Luckey, who is a former manager of the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, has had some occasions to worry.

“It got up to my door once,” he recalled. “I’d open the door and I was on the shore of the ‘lake.’ But it didn’t get in the house.”

White water forms mini-rapids as flood cascades over farm-market roads to seek lowest level. White water forms mini-rapids as flood cascades over farm-market roads to seek lowest level. He’s heard ancestors talk about “the big one” though.

“In 1921 they say the water was up to the top of that hill.” Luckey points back toward Rockdale to a crest well beyond his house. “We’d be way below the water’s surface where we’re standing right now.”

The 1921 flood claimed 63 lives, drowned an estimated 90 percent of the livestock in Central Milam County and even altered the shape of the land in the river bottoms.

RESCUES—Nothing like that happened this time around in Milam County, but places to the west weren’t as fortunate.

At least five deaths were blamed on flooding in the Austin to Lockhart area and about 1,100 persons were evacuated in South Austin when normally placid Onion Creek went on a rampage.

Some of that water eventually ended up in Bill Luckey’s “front yard.”

Closer to home, North Milam County received more than twice as much rainfall as the Rockdale area and the Cameron Volunteer Fire Department had a pair of high water rescues early Thursday on FM 485.

A Cameron woman was pulled from her car after her vehicle stalled out on a flooded bridge. And a pickup washed off the road at about the same location against a fence and small tree, keeping the truck from floating down the creek. Firefighters got the driver, another Cameron resident, to safety after the water went down.

Further to the east, a trucker wasn’t hurt when his 18-wheeler hydroplaned on the US 77 Pond Creek Bridge at the Falls County line and washed into the railing.

In Rockdale the storm was much less serious. At least one tree went down and there was water over the usual intersections.

Some north Milam roads were damaged by the water and extensive repairs were being made throughout the area.

ENTERTAINMENT—The periodic flooding in the bottomland provides lots of entertainment for a substantial portion of Rockdale.

A steady stream of cars ease up to the FM 908 barricade and some venture beyond it.

“There are always a lot of people who come out and look when it’s like this,” Luckey says. “Lots of them turn around in my driveway.”

Sometimes they stop and visit with the man who has seen more “Brushy floods” than anyone else.

“ One couple this morning who live out on Alligator Creek stopped and talked,” he said. “They can’t get home. It’s blocked by high water from every side.”

A flock of ducks glide by directly overhead. “See, they think it’s a sure-enough lake,” Luckey grins.

The roaring in the distance is an impromptu waterfall as flood water cascades off the north side of FM 908.

“I’ve seen fish flopping in the middle of the road,” Luckey says. “And when this is over there will be driftwood all over the place.”

He starts the walk back to his actual front yard, then pauses to look over the come-and-go lake which would be quite scenic if it weren’t so uncomfortably close to his home.

And still rising.

What looks like little sticks are poking out of the water. “That’s a five-strand fence,” he notes. “We’re just seeing the top. There’s a lot of water out there.”

His conclusion is with the air of a “veteran” who has seen enough Brushy Creek floods to put them in perspective.

“ We’ve been having a lot of ground moisture problems because it’s been so dry,” he says gazing out over Lake Luckey. “I think the drought is over for a while for a few fields, at least!”

Over the weekend the water quickly went down and FM 908 and FM 487 reopened.

Lake Luckey disappeared. For now. “Oh, it will come back,” Luckey grins. “One of these days.”

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