As Harvey looms, Austin-area schools revise schedules and plan ahead

rbz Flooding Austin Park 03

House Park along North Lamar Boulevard near Enfield Road was severely damaged by flood waters from nearby Shoal Creek in 2015. Heavy rains inundated Austin, causing widespread flooding on main thoroughfares along the downtown corridor. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As Hurricane Harvey continued to slosh toward the Texas Coast on Friday, high school officials across the Austin area were responding to the threat of possible flooding this weekend.

The hurricane, expected to make landfall on the Coastal Bend region early Saturday, likely will trigger waves of storms across Central Texas, according to forecasts. Forecasts of up to 10 inches of rain in the Austin area have prompted several scheduling changes and other precautionary moves.

In Leander and Cedar Park, organizers of the Leander school district’s Volleypalooza tournament were adapting to the likely departure of some of the teams that had planned to compete in the event. Sixteen Houston-area teams, including fifth-seeded Pearland Dawson, indicated they likely would need to leave Friday to avoid the threat of flooding. Matches scheduled for Friday will now begin two hours early, according to tournament director Jacob Thompson, coach of the state-ranked Rouse volleyball team. The earlier start will allow Houston-area teams to play before heading home early Friday afternoon, Thompson said.

“This has been just crazy,” he said. “We are attempting to accommodate everyone, but safety is first, and if they need to go, we support that decision.”

A handful of football scrimmages had been moved from Friday evening to Friday afternoon, including a high-profile meeting between Westlake and Cedar Park, both ranked in preseason state polls. Timberwolves head coach Carl Abseck said the threat of heavy downpours prompted the scrimmage’s shift to 1:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

In Austin, officials were fortifying House Park with sandbags in order to stymie possible floodwaters from Shoal Creek, which runs alongside the stadium at 15th Street and North Lamar Boulevard.

Shoal Creek has overflowed its banks several times since the city implemented flood-control measures after the devastating Memorial Day floods of 1981. In May of 2015, floodwaters reached the second row of seats inside House Park, and portions of the turf were ripped or left rippled by the deluge. The Austin Aztex, the city’s minor-league soccer team that played its home matches at House Park, had to finish out its season at Reeves Athletic Complex in Round Rock.

The Austin school district replaced the turf and fixed electrical issues for approximately $500,000 and had the stadium ready in time for the 2015 football season.

The 2017 high school football season will begin Thursday, when McCallum faces Anderson in the annual Taco Shack Bowl at House Park. House Park also is scheduled to the site of a game between Austin High and McNeil on Sept. 1.

Leal Anderson, athletic director for the Austin school district, said the district is developing an alternative game plan in the event floodwaters again seep into the stadium.

“There’s a little bit of juggling going on, but we’re putting a plan in place,” Anderson said Friday morning.

The Austin school district’s athletic facilities also include Burger Stadium in South Austin and Nelson Field in Northeast Austin. Since the district does not regularly schedule Saturday games, both stadiums would be available at that time and could serve as replacement venues if flooding rendered House Park unusable.

American-Statesman correspondent Butch Hart contributed to this story.

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