Memorial Day Flood

Marjorie Kamys Cotera

The 40-foot wall of water that gushed down the Blanco River in May 2015, wiping out parts of Wimberley and killing more than a dozen people, was largely a natural phenomenon. But a new study shows that development along the waterway made its impact on the fast-growing Central Texas community that much worse. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened up a public comment period for new floodplain maps for Caldwell, Guadalupe, Gonzales and Hays counties, showing a significant increase in flood risk, especially in places that recently experienced devastating floods.   

Jacob Croft Botte

From Texas Standard:

The Blanco River is only 87 miles long, winding its way from the tiny Central Texas community of Lindendale to the city and river of San Marcos.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Grey humid weather brings some anxiety to the residents of Martindale in Central Texas. Many of them are still recovering from last year’s Memorial Day floods.


Jorge Sanhueza Lyon/KUT

UPDATE: After our story was originally published, we heard from several members of Flood Mitigation Task Force, who disputed the assertions made by some task force members, including the group’s chairman, who said the final report lacked prioritization.

An executive summary of the report, not available at Monday’s meeting of the Council's Public Utilities committee, whittles down the nearly 200 recommendations into 19 high priority ones. Topping that list is the creation of a city-wide policy that prioritizes life, safety and property when it comes to flooding. The task force recommends that the city then consider this when making upcoming budget decisions.

In conversations with other members of the task force, some took issue with chairman Matt Reinstra’s presentation of the report to the Public Utilities Committee. At that time, he did not present the executive summary to council members because it had not yet been finalized by the task force.

“Many of the things he mentioned as recommendations were very minor things that were in there,” said task force member Ken Jacob. “We’re trying to come forward and say this is important. This is something you, the council, needs to pay attention to and the city needs to pay attention to because it’s a big issue.”

Jacob also cautioned against considering too heavily the report’s note that, at the city’s current rate of improvements, it would cost $2 to $4 billion to address local flooding issues.

“The numbers are just estimates [staff] were able to pull out there,” said Jacob. “And they’re going to have to do more work on that to finalize it.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Nearly a year after floodwaters wrecked businesses and homes in Austin over Memorial Day, members of the city’s Public Utilities Committee heard a rundown of a report from the city’s Flood Mitigation Task Force.

It’s a 89-page document bursting with nearly 200 recommendations for city staff – among them, suggestions to replace aging storm drainage systems and enhancing public outreach by the city’s Watershed Protection Department. According to the report, the total cost of these recommendations ranges from $2 billion to $4 billion.


Most of the rivers and creeks engorged by Friday's heavy rainfall have reached their highest points and have started to recede. As they do, the residents of hard-hit places, like San Marcos, Bastrop County and Austin's Onion Creek neighborhood, are starting the process of cleaning up and assessing the damage. 

Though the rescue efforts are over, and many donation centers are no longer accepting donated material goods, there are still ways you can help, whether it's by donating money, or making yourself available to volunteer, or bringing in clean clothes for those who lost their belongings. If you're a resident looking for help removing damaged goods or receiving donations, there's information for you as well.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency held an open house in San Marcos to answer questions about its newly released flood maps, which show where flood risks in the area will be highest.

The new maps show significant increase in flood risk in the Wimberley area, and varying levels in San Marcos. These areas are still rebuilding after floods over Memorial Day weekend brought down houses, trees and took more than a dozen lives.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

A local non-profit is offering to replant trees lost along the Blanco River during the Memorial Day floods, but the trees are more than just replacements. They also might help mitigate future flooding.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The Memorial Day Floods are just over three months behind us.

Here in Austin, flood-affected businesses, like the Shoal Creek Saloon, have since reopened, but some of the outdoor features here in Austin – including some pools and parks – are still waiting on repairs.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

For many of the people who survived the Memorial Day weekend flood last May, the destruction isn’t yet a part of the past.

So this weekend, volunteers started going out to the hard-hit areas to help out, and they're asking for help from anyone able to join them.


Blanco River Levels Still Too High for Damage Assessment

Jun 25, 2015
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

One month ago, the Memorial Day Floods devastated many communities here in Central Texas, and today, the rebuilding continues.

How much officials can do is still limited, though, because the water hasn’t fully receded.

Local agencies are still searching for two children who went missing when the Blanco River flooded. The problem is that the water hasn’t receded enough to enable search teams to access all the areas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

In the roughly 13 years that Tom Keyser has owned Ino’z Brew & Chew in Wimberley, he’s been flooded three times, and last month’s flooding was the worst.

"This water level inside the building and in the restaurant itself was the highest it’s ever, ever been," he said. 

The restaurant got 18 inches of water in areas including the kitchen and main dining area, which meant Keyser and his partner had to close down the restaurant for five days. That was tough for him, his partner and their 35 employees.

This Sunday, 150 girls ages six to 16 will say goodbye to their parents, grab their trunks and move into their summer cabins at Rocky River Ranch. The 50-year-old camp is a place preserved in time. When alumni drop off their little sisters and daughters, director Shanna Watson asks them if anything looks different.

Mose Buchele/KUT News

It’s been about a week since devastating floods swept through Texas, bringing destruction and even death.

The floods also set the scene for acts of heroism.

As the waters have receded, some of those stories have surfaced. One of them took place early Sunday morning on Memorial Day weekend on River Road in San Marcos.

Daniel Navarro and his stepfather Chris Gutierrez were searching for a family member and came across a woman and her three children stranded in their car in the floodwaters. Navarro and Gutierrez tell us what happened next.

Central Texas just had one of its wettest Mays on record. The heavy rainfall, storms and flooding became deadly and destructive, causing 23 deaths. Crews continue to search for those who are still missing in Hays County, where storms and flooding destroyed homes and property of many residents.

President Obama gave Texas a federal disaster declaration Saturday, allowing affected counties access to federal aid for relief efforts.

Volunteers Help Rebuild San Marcos, One House at a Time

May 29, 2015
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

We’ve been reporting on the damage caused to communities like San Marcos and Wimberley after record flooding along the Blanco River.

Since then, volunteers have come out in force to help people dealing with the aftermath.

At a former Target in San Marcos, instead of aisle after aisle of merchandise, table after table is covered in donations. Diane Insley, the coordinator at this donation center, lists off all of the donations they have.

"Cleaning supplies, mops, tools to rip out sheet rock that’s been damaged. We also have basic food, non perishable food items, a lot of bottled water, some brand new clothing, some basic shoes and then we have baby items, personal hygiene, deodorant soaps, Clorox bleach, laundry detergent...," she points out. 

National Weather Service

UPDATE: 7:44 a.m.: The flash flood watch for Central Texas has expired.

Overnight storms brought over an inch of rain to pockets of East Austin, but the majority of the rain fell northwest of the Austin area, forcing LCRA to open up flood gates at both the Starcke and Wirtz dams. The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Llano County until early Saturday morning. Last night's rains have brought the Llano River up to 11.95 feet, though officials say the rise won't cause any damage to properties in the area. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The deadly flooding that hit central Texas this week struck in one of the most rapidly growing parts of the county. And it’s reignited a debate over whether the state is doing enough to regulate development in floodplains.

Professor Nicolas Pinter teaches environmental science at Southern Illinois University.  He says a big study back in the late ‘90s put Texas at number two in the country in number of properties that have flooded repeatedly and the number of properties that have received repeated flood insurance payouts. And Texas is second to Florida in flood insurance, with just over 681,000 policies to Florida's 2.1 million, according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The reason for that's simple: Texas gets a lot of floods.

Mose Buchele/KUT News

Victims of the deadly floods that struck Central Texas over Memorial Day weekend are sorting through the physical wreckage of the storms. In San Marcos, they’re also trying to make sense of what happened and what comes next.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Organizations throughout Central Texas are looking for money, for donations of goods and for volunteers to help with flood relief efforts.

The city of Wimberley opened a hotline both for volunteers and for residents in need – that number is 512-754-2275. They also have a facebook page here, where they're updating information about what they need.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The community in Wimberley is finding some sort of normalcy after record flooding over the weekend. Seven homes there were destroyed, and 1,400 were damaged. But even before the waters had receded, community members started looking for ways to help their neighbors.

A steady flow of customers came into Brookshire Brothers, Wimberley's local supermarket, on Tuesday. Customers were buying extra water and groceries that supermarket employees would then pack up for neighbors in need. A sign-up sheet by the door encouraged residents to write down how they could help others. Some people offered their cars; others, their cell phones.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The lakes that supply Austin with water - Travis and Buchanan - have risen dramatically over the past few days, but city of Austin officials are not ready to lift water restrictions just yet.

Before this most recent round of rains, the lakes were 39 percent full, combined. Now, they're 55 percent full

The Lower Colorado River Authority's vice president for water, John Hoffman, says they're happy the reservoirs are rising, but they still see it as a glass half empty. 

Mose Buchele/KUT

Sitting in her neighbor’s car in the parking lot at the San Marcos Activity Center, Lynn Young looks desolate. She’s an older, fragile-seeming woman who recently suffered a stroke and walks with a cane.

At 3 a.m. Sunday morning, police came to her apartment in San Marcos and ordered her to evacuate.

Her 30 year-old son told her to go. He stayed behind with her helper dog. By early Sunday afternoon, she hadn’t heard from her son.

Her neighbor, David Barry, has offered to go back and look for her son. Barry has elaborate tattoos and piercings and looks like the kind of guy who might ride a Harley. And turns out he does.

“It seems like we might be able to get back now and check it out,” Barry says. “And then see what’s up from there.”

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Texas Governor Greg Abbott took a helicopter tour of the areas devastated by weekend floods yesterday, which culminated in a disaster declaration in 24 counties in Texas. Hundreds of families in Wimberley lost everything, and more than 1,000 were in shelters Monday night. Two are confirmed dead in Hays County.

Update 3:30 p.m. Earlier today, 30 were still unaccounted for in the county, but sources are starting to report that most of those have been contacted. Thirteen are supposedly still missing.

Update 3 p.m. Gov. Abbott has added 8 more counties to the state disaster declaration. You can view a full list of counties, and the governor's statement, here.

Update 1:15 p.m. In a press conference in Wimberley this afternoon, Hays County officials said that there are still 30 people unaccounted for in the wake of the weekend's storms. Hays County Commissioner called the storm a "tsunami." President Obama declared Texas an official disaster area, which opens the door to the state receiving federal funding for recovery.

Original story: Still, after a record flood of the Blanco River, more rain is expected to fall throughout the week as those in the town continue rescue and clean-up efforts.

But, yesterday, one family celebrated Memorial Day as they always do – together – in spite of the floods that ravaged their home.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Storms swept through the Austin area Monday afternoon, causing businesses and roadways to flood. The National Weather Service says Austin should expect more rain and thunderstorms this week, with chances as high as 50 percent on Friday.

Storms across the state resulted in a total of seven dead in Texas, including one in San Marcos, one in Wimberley, one in Cameron, one in San Antonio and three more in Houston. At least 30 people are still unaccounted for in Hays County.

Meanwhile in Austin, clean-up efforts are underway. You can get the latest information from the city of Austin here.

4 p.m. The body of one man, still unidentified, has been recovered in northeast Travis County.

1 p.m. CapMetro says its rail service will be restored as of 3:44 this afternoon. Its buses are running normally, say CapMetro officials.

12:45 p.m. You can call Austin Disaster Relief Network if you're affected by the flood and still need help.

12 p.m. An update from CapMetro says that MetroRail is offering partial service today:

11:15 a.m. The North Austin Red Cross shelter housed five people last night, and the South Austin shelter housed two. The shelters in San Marcos housed 80 overnight. Updated Red Cross shelter information for those in need Tuesday:

10:45 a.m. ATXfloods is reporting that nearly all of Austin's roads are open.

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

City of Austin Releases Budget Cut Options

The City of Austin has released a menu of possible budget cuts for 2011-2012. The items on the table include: reducing hours at the Faulk Central Library, closing some neighborhood pools, delaying the hiring of 47 new police officers, and only hiring certified firefighters to cut hiring and training time.