Driving rain, soaking Austin, Texas and generating flash flood warnings on Sunday, also made the state Capitol’s flow corridors look like a tributary of the Colorado River.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a “hands on deck” response to flooding in the Capitol’s underground extension. The video of the flooding posted on Twitter appears to show water entering through a skylight and flowing into a hallway already covered in ankle-high water.
The Capitol is better known as the scene of explosive politics, including a headline-grabbing filibuster in 2013 against abortion restrictions and a vote earlier that month to arrest lawmakers who fled the state to prevent a restrictive election measure from being passed.
But the state has also hosted weather emergencies, such as the deadly winter storm in February, which left residents with no electricity or running water as temperatures plummet.
Mr Abbott said on Twitter that his office is working with the State Preservation Board, which maintains the Capitol and other state buildings, “and all relevant agencies to combat flooding in the Capitol due to the current Austin storm.”
The person who posted the video of the Capitol flooding did not immediately respond to a Twitter message or email on Sunday afternoon.
In a statement on Sunday evening, Chris Currens, director of special projects for the State Preservation Board, explained how the Capitol was flooded. A torrential thunderstorm in downtown Austin “caused flooding at the Texas State Capitol as a storm drain clogged and dammed water in the capital’s extension,” Currens said.
Board members have drained the water and “are now drying out affected areas overnight”. The building will be open for operations on Monday morning, he said.
In a message to lawmakers posted on Twitter on Sunday evening, State Representative Will Metcalf, chairman of the property management committee, described the episode as a “minor flood”.
The flood came when a flash flood warning was in place for Travis County, which Austin is a part of.
In a 4pm update for central Travis County, the National Weather Service announced that up to five inches of rain had already fallen in some areas, with “the highest amounts reported over downtown Austin.”
It also warned of “life-threatening flash floods from creeks and creeks, urban areas, highways, roads and underpasses”. In the future, only light rains can be expected in the area, the service said.
On Sunday afternoon, rainfall began to ease in Austin, but the area had already rained heavily, according to Eric Platt, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Texas.
The combination of moisture trapped in the air and slow-moving storms in the area is “a good recipe for flash floods,” said Platt. And that can lead to flooding in parts of Austin where the rocky soil can’t hold much rainwater and where parts of the city have been built near low-lying, flood-prone streams, he said.
“Usually there are dry streams and drainages and there are roads that run through them,” said Platt. “So instead of building a bridge, the road was built through this drainage. It’s fine when it’s dry, but when it rains a lot quickly, the water covers the pavement, “causing potentially dangerous flooding.
Jesus Jiménez contributed to the reporting.