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Labor Day weekenders cautioned as Canyon Lake dips to record low

Canyon Lake, to the right of the spillway in the foreground, is revealing more limestone outcroppings as its water level continues to fall due to drought.
Courtesy photo
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Canyon Lake to the right of the spillway is revealing more limestone outcroppings on its shores as its water level continues to fall due to drought.

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The San Antonio area's biggest lake dipped to its lowest level in its nearly 60-year-old history this past weekend, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the waterway.

Spokesman Clay Church said Canyon Lake, west of New Braunfels, dropped to around 892.65 feet or nearly 16 feet below its normal conservation level of 909 feet. The previous record low of 892.68 feet set in 2009 was broken.

Construction began on the lake in 1958 and water impoundment began there in 1964, according to the Handbook of Texas. It's total storage capacity for water when full is 382,000-acre feet and a surface area of 8,240 acres with 60 miles of shoreline.

The new lake led to a 1960's explosion of 46 residential subdivisions on its shores and 14 more in the nearby hills. It also turned the sleepy farm and ranch communities of Sattler and Startzville into more commercial centers and gave birth to a new town, Canyon City, according to the Handbook of Texas.

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, which paid part of the costs of the lake's construction, has rights to the storage conservation space and control over the use and release of conservation water.

Church cautioned water recreationists, such as boaters, who are headed to the lake this Labor Day weekend to watch out for an increase in obstacles that may now be sticking out above the water line, or worse, hiding just below the surface.

"There's things right below the surface or at the surface that are there now that were under 16 feet of water before," Church said.

The city recorded its 60th 100-degree day on Sunday.

Despite the lower lake level, the waterway is expected to be packed with those celebrating the unofficial end of summer as schools open up. This holiday weekend is traditionally one of the lake's most active.

The water has dipped so low only four boat ramps reach far enough into the lake to be usable, Church said. "We certainly want people to come out and recreate in the great outdoors, just be aware if you are launching a boat be very patient."

Church said lake visitors should also wear life vests when on or near the water.

The lake's shallower appearance is yet another reminder of the long, hot summer and drought that has plagued South Texas and the Hill Country.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported an angry, dark red blob depicting the worst drought conditions in the region, state, and nation has been growing this summer.

U.S. Drought Monitor
Drought map shows Bexar and surrounding counties in various stages of drought with the driest of the dry depicted in dark red and burnt orange.

The lower half of Texas is keeping an eye out for any tropical activity that may bring rain and drought relief.

Tropical Storm Harold brought some relief last Tuesday with scattered showers. It also dropped temperatures below 100 but did not stop San Antonio from roasting up more than 60 100-degree days this year, a new record.

Tropical Storm Idalia — projected to be a Category 3 hurricane by Wednesday — is headed toward Florida, which is the wrong way, as far as many rain-starved residents of this region are concerned.

A map of the possible path of Tropical Storm Idalia shows it will grow into a hurricane this week as it treks towards Florida.
A map of the possible path of Tropical Storm Idalia shows it will grow into a hurricane this week as it treks towards Florida.

A cold front arrived in San Antonio to start this week, dropping temperatures a few degrees. A trough pushing in from West Texas is expected to help trigger showers on Monday afternoon. Rainfall amounts, however, are expected to only to be around a tenth to a quarter of an inch by Monday night.

San Antonio International Airport has received just below 14 inches of rain for the entire year and just below two inches since June 1, according to the National Weather Service. For the year, the city's rainfall deficit is nearly seven inches.

Area towns and cities have implemented moderate to severe water restrictions, which allow for landscape watering with automatic sprinklers once a week or once every other week. Some have totally banned outdoor water use, except that needed to sustain livestock.

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