I woke up at 3:30 am on Sunday morning to a call from my Dad saying that he and my mom were driving to my house because the San Marcos river was heading into their house. My uncle, who lives in Wimberley, called my dad at 3 am and ordered him to evacuate. The Blanco River…which runs into the San Marcos River…had risen 27 feet in 15 minutes. And a wall of water was heading their way. They were disoriented and practically sleepwalking as they scrambled to get out of there and find open roads to head to dryer land. The photo above was taken hours later after the river had gone down quite a bit, but was still up quite a lot (It is usually far below that far group of trees you can see in the distance).
The San Marcos River runs through the edge of my parents’ backyard…probably 300 yards (or, three football fields, as we say down here) downhill from their back door. They built this home 40+ years ago, and the river has come up only a few times in four decades, raising up to the raised back porch once in 1998, but never inside and never beyond. This weekend, it overachieved.
In Wimberley the river level crested at 43 feet early Sunday morning, flowing at a rate of 223,000 cubic feet per second — 2.5 times the flow of Niagra Falls. And all of that water headed quickly down the river to Martindale.
The photo below this is one taken by their neighbor Evy. It is their street hours after they evacuated. Water still up. Their house is not shown and probably 200 yards down on the right. Covered in water.
We aren’t storm chasers, so we didn’t drive into the flood to get floody photos. In fact, throughout this whole process, I took very few. But the Austin American Statesman helicopters were overhead. This is the Dairy Queen in San Marcos on the road in to my parents’ house.
If this isn’t a Texas Flood photo, I don’t know what is. This pretty much sums up the whole weekend. The Statesman and the people who work there really have done an incredible job capturing images over this past weekend. Check them out.
When we arrived at my parents’ house hours later, after the roads were clear enough to return, we found a lot of damage. A lot. And yet, so much less than our neighbors in Wimberley faced.
This photo above was taken after the water had fallen back about 50 or 70 yards and after a few hours of work had already been done. My parents had a large group of friends and fellow church members who immediately descended upon them to help. So much was already done by the time we got there! It was unbelievable. And friends brought food, tools, fans, and worked until late that night.
Because of the massive force the river rushing through, 100-year-old pecan trees came down and sped on to create more problems elsewhere. Massive destruction, property and families lost. So haunting. And we were lucky. The worst familial upheaval we experienced was a family of turtles that was still struggling to get out of my parents’ backyard, hours later. Can you spot the turtle Harry is about to liberate from the fence?
This is what the floors of my parents’ house looked inside. Or, at least the muddiest part there. So much mud, and mud and more mud, everywhere.
This was after it had been cleaned four times over two hours. The mud was everywhere. It seemed like it kept rising up again after it was cleaned away. For hours.
The biggest emotional cleaning project that we had came from thousands and thousands and decades of photos. My grandfather’s slides from the 1950s. My parents’ yearbooks from the 1960s. Their wedding album. All of our family photos from 1900 forward. Most were stored in a trunk that didn’t fare well. My mom’s biggest advice now: “Store your photos high.” To which my dad said: “And then you’ll be hit by a tornado.” (We decided that after the last month, my parents might actually get ready for a tornado…a heart attack and ICU visit in Colombia and a flood in four weeks.) My sister then reminded them that over the last three decades they’d experienced a fire (their home completely burned down), a hurricane, and now a flood. They only need a tornado and they’d have the EGOT…or, uh, the FHFT. And then 2 hours later, there was a tornado spotted less than five miles away, in Maxwell, Texas. Stop talking, Family. And knock on some wood.
This is how we do it. My 9-year-old spent Memorial Day drying out his grandparents’ yearbooks. He was sad for them that “the world was all black and white back then.” Oh little boy, you just said a mouthful.
As he did this, my sister-in-law and I went through thousands of photos to lay them out, dry them out and salvage anything we could. Every flat surface available was hosting a soaking image and most continue to.
This is the dining room. It is still drying out.
And this is what the rest of the house looks like. Stuff everywhere. Fans everywhere. Things drying. This is a slow process because it is still raining. An hour after this photo was taken, we were all under flash flood warnings again and Austin was flooding.
This is just a bit of the debris. We are waiting for a dumpster to arrive to really clear things out. And so that is where we are right now. Waiting for things to dry. My brother and a high school friend of mine (Thank you, Parker Allred!) tore out a bunch of walls yesterday and got rid of a ton of soaked insulation so things could be ready for the drying process to begin. And we are still waiting for that.
But we are lucky. Infinitely lucky. When I hear the stories of people who lost everything, of people who lost people. It’s really unbelievable. To think that the water rose almost three stories in less than 20 minutes. In the middle of the night. So much confusion, so much loss. Right now people are just working to pick up the pieces. Or find the pieces. As I type this, James is meeting a rescue crew from Corpus Christi on my parents’ land to help them search for the missing. Again, haunting. It’s hard to even comprehend what they are going through.
Image Credit: ABC 13 Houston.
And now Houston is flooding. Enough already.
So friends, we are river soaked down here, please send arks. Or better yet, someone start building a pipeline to California asap before all of this runs into the Gulf. I can’t believe that doesn’t already exist. We’re so good at building pipelines around here.
I can’t help with that, but I can help with information flow. Here is a list of lifelines and resources that my friend Laurie White helped me pull together for those working to clean up the messes and dry out the floods.
Central Texas Flood Relief Resources
Hashtags: #ATXFlood #HoustonFlood
365 Things to Do in Austin — Ways to Help Central Texas Flood Victims — Local organizations and businesses providing on-the-ground assistance.
Austin Chronicle — Flood of Relief — Updated list of resources
Austin Disaster Relief Network/ Central Texas Floods Relief Fund – The Austin Disaster Relief Network is comprised of churches, ministries and businesses within the Christian community of Greater Austin to form a disaster relief alliance to help those in need in times of disaster.
Austin Animal Center — Pet fostering and assistance with reuniting with owners needed, follow on Twitter @austinanimals.
Austin Pets Alive — Emergency Fosters and Pet Relief