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Cold blast rushed San Antonio River Walk cleanup; more rollercoaster temps on the way

Apple snails are an invasive pest in the San Antonio River that first turned up in 2019.
Austin Davis
/
San Antonio River Authority
Apple snails are an invasive pest in the San Antonio River that first turned up in 2019.

The polar express that sent temperatures well below freezing for hours on end this week resulted in a rushed cleanup and repair of the San Antonio River Walk channel, including the removal of invasive species.

Austin Davis, an aquatic biologist with the San Antonio River Authority, said what takes at least a week was condensed into three days once it was learned the bitter front would severely drop temperatures Monday and Tuesday of this week.

The front dusted some areas with frozen precipitation.

He said the rush was needed to get the river back up to normal levels before the cold blast arrived to keep aquatic life, like fish, from freezing. Davis said there was no significant loss of wildlife.

"We didn't see any significant loss of life throughout the whole process, which was really fortunate and a lot of that is due to that kind of moving around the schedule to avoid the brunt of that winter storm that rolled through," he said.

He said river authority crews started their work on Friday and the river was largely back to normal by Sunday. Davis said their crews also had to reduce the scope of the cleanup to focus on the inlets and outlets on the river, just above and just below the downtown stretch of the waterway.

San Antonio
Austin Davis
/
San Antonio River Authority
San Antonio

He said around 2,000 apple snails, an invasive species native to Central America, were removed from the river channel. David said they eat a lot of life-sustaining river vegetation, which can disrupt the natural order in the river.

"Aquatic vegetation can have a multitude of impacts on aquatic systems through nutrient cycling or water chemistry or even substrate stability and habitat for little bugs and critters like that," he said.

Davis said those apple snails, which some use to help keep home aquariums clean, made their way into the river by locals dumping aquariums into the river. He urged people not to do that to keep the waterway hospitable to native species.

While the river authority took care of wildlife during the draining, the City of San Antonio took care of maintenance issues to the channel. The city also reports it recovered folding chairs, a scooter, an orange cone, sandbags, a trash can, and alot trash from the river.

San Antonio's wild weather ride this January is not over. After highs reach around 70 on Thursday, forecasters said a dry Artic cold front was set to settle in the area by sunrise Friday, creating temperatures at or below freezing and wind chills in the teens.

Another cold period can be expected Friday night into Saturday morning with lows in the teens and 20s and wind chills in the single digits.

Forecasters said another system from the West Coast will eventually arrive in the Southern Plains and could help trigger some rainfall as early as Sunday morning for San Antonio, but as of Wednesday did not appear likely to create any winter precipitation. The National Weather Service said it would have a better fix on the forecast as the weekend draws closer.