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Tuesday, May 26

Deadly Texas floodwaters: two Blanco River towns, Wimberley and San Marcos, hardest hit so far; Evacuations in Austin (UPDATED 4:45 AM EDT)

UPDATE from Associated Press 2:30 AM CDT:
Evacuations are underway in Austin, Texas, due to rising water that's threatening homes.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/article22320261.html#storylink=cpy
The Austin American-Statesman reported early Tuesday that some houses in a neighborhood in eastern Travis County had flooded after the Deck Creek left its banks.
EMS spokesman Mike Benevides told the newspaper crews had used boats and helicopters to rescue some residents and were conducting a door-to-door search.
It wasn't immediately clear how many rescues had been conducted. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The evacuations come after a long holiday weekend that saw severe weather that led to at least four deaths across the state.
---
2:15 a.m. CDT
A flash flood warning is in effect for parts of southeast Texas as a severe storm brings heavy rain to the Houston area.
The National Weather Service reported between 6-10 inches of rain had fallen there Monday night.
Authorities urged residents to stay off the roads.
The Harris County Regional Joint Information Center said that two bayous and other waterways were out of their banks and numerous roadways were impassable. The center said reports indicated some homes may have taken on water.
CenterPoint Energy reported nearly 81,000 area customers were without power.
[More]
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A statue of St Francis of Assisi is all that's left standing of a home in Wimberley
(photo from AP report)




Girls rescued after they clung to a tree in Kyle, Texas to avoid being swept away by flooding


From CNN report updated 9:07 PM last night:

[...] The Blanco River, which flows through San Marcos, shot past its previous flood record of 33.3 feet to 40.21 feet late Saturday.

Nearly 200 miles northeast of Hays County, near Houston, an area of about 400 homes around Louis Creek Dam is under mandatory evacuation. The dam has not breached, but workers continue to pack soil on it.

Water was topping a dam in the middle of Bastrop State Park, said Lt. Roger Dolle with Bastrop County Emergency Management.
[...]
The county still has Internet problems, and cell phone networks are overwhelmed.

"People outside our community know more about what's going on than people inside our community," Bell said.
***
In a post last night about the storm I speculated that many people were probably away on vacation during the Memorial Day long weekend. I didn't realize that the worst-hit area in Texas was a vacation spot.   

From the following report:

Not long ago, said Bond, the magazine editor, local officials initiated a so-called reverse-911 system, intended to make mass telephone calls to local residents in the event of an emergency. “Everyone’s phone went crazy,” Bond said. “It was a massive effort to call people, to wake people up and get people out.”

Whether McComb and the other guests got a call is not known. Hays County Judge Bert Cobb told The Associated Press that floodwaters peaked about 4 a.m. Sunday at more than 40 feet. He said witnesses saw the McComb house slip from its foundation into the river, then smash into a bridge.

McComb’s father, Joe McComb, told The Corpus Christi Caller-Times that his son managed to reach the river’s banks despite being hit in the head by debris.

Cobb said that only pieces of the house had been recovered.


Photo: Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman
Hudson Doty (left), 18, and Grant Guzal, 17, passed mangled trees and homes in disarray Monday along the Blanco River bank near where a vacation home was swept away. “The cypress trees along the river are stripped down to bare toothpicks,” said Louie Bond, a magazine editor in Wimberley.
8 swept away in home on Hill Country's Blanco River

FROM WIRE REPORTS (The New York Times, The Associated Press, Austin-American Statesman
Published: 25 May 2015 11:53 PM
Updated: 26 May 2015 12:19 AM
The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN — Louie Bond called it a tsunami, a surge of water that began late Saturday night with torrential rains in Texas’ Hill Country and raced down the bluff-lined valley carved out by the Blanco River.

By the time it reached the vacation getaways and retiree cabins overlooking the river at Wimberley, some 30 miles southwest of here, the surge was 40 feet high, sweeping away bridges and homes and ancient stands of cypresses as if they were bath toys.

One of the homes held 36-year-old Jonathan McComb, his wife and two children and two other families from their Corpus Christi hometown — nine in all, including at least three children. On Monday, McComb was in a San Antonio hospital with a collapsed lung and broken bones.

The other eight are missing, along with four others from the area, apparently lost in the torrent that capped weeks of rain and violent weather across Texas and Oklahoma. The weekend’s weather left six people known dead in the two states, and more heavy rain and tornadoes pummeled Texas on Monday.

Trey Hatt, a spokesman for the Hays County Emergency Operations Center, said Monday that teams had halted their search for the missing at nightfall. He said “the search component is over,” meaning that no more survivors are expected to be found in the flood debris, and he added that recovery operations would begin Tuesday.

“It had been raining here for weeks, a lovely wet spring after years of drought. The ground was saturated,” said Bond, a magazine editor and former editor of Wimberley’s newspaper.

Wimberley and nearby San Marcos, a pair of Blanco River towns off the Interstate 35 corridor linking Austin and San Antonio, appear to have been the hardest-hit towns in the United States.

San Marcos authorities have said at least one other person was killed in flooding on Sunday, and a high school senior died Saturday night after her car was caught in high water in Medina County. The toll included a 14-year-old DeSoto boy whose body was found in a storm drain Sunday and a man killed Monday afternoon when a reported tornado near Cameron destroyed his mobile home.
More rain forecast

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott added 24 counties on Monday to a list of 13 that earlier this month were declared disaster areas because of bad weather. Forecasters are predicting continued rain and severe weather across the state through the rest of this week.

On one level, this spring’s rains have been a blessing, all but obliterating an acute drought that had gripped part of the state for five years. But the weather has also been punishing.

Abbott, who flew across the Blanco River valley on Monday, said at a news conference that the damage there was “absolutely devastating.”

In Hays County, which includes San Marcos and Wimberley, an overnight curfew imposed Sunday was renewed Monday as residents and workers began assessing the damage to at least 1,200 homes, including at least 350 in Wimberley that were destroyed.

“I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Will Conley, a Hays County commissioner.

“We’ve had worse flooding in the general area,” he said, “but we have not seen a surge of the river to this degree in recorded history.


Cloudburst

In the picturesque country around Wimberley, the Blanco River’s banks are sprinkled with bed-and-breakfasts and rental cottages. Last weekend, McComb, his 33-year-old wife, Laura, and their children, Leighton, 4, and Andrew, 6, were staying in one home with two other Corpus Christi families, Ralph and Sue Carey and Randy and Michelle Charba.

All that was left of the house Monday was a set of stilts and part of its frame. It originally sat about 50 feet from the normal river bank and about 20 feet above it, closer than any of the houses further up a slope.

To their west, a cloudburst in the Blanco River’s upper reaches was dumping at least 10 inches of rain late Sunday, unleashing a flash flood.

Not long ago, said Bond, the magazine editor, local officials initiated a so-called reverse-911 system, intended to make mass telephone calls to local residents in the event of an emergency. “Everyone’s phone went crazy,” Bond said. “It was a massive effort to call people, to wake people up and get people out.”

Whether McComb and the other guests got a call is not known. Hays County Judge Bert Cobb told The Associated Press that floodwaters peaked about 4 a.m. Sunday at more than 40 feet. He said witnesses saw the McComb house slip from its foundation into the river, then smash into a bridge.

McComb’s father, Joe McComb, told The Corpus Christi Caller-Times that his son managed to reach the river’s banks despite being hit in the head by debris.

Cobb said that only pieces of the house had been recovered.
[END REPORT]


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