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Flooding in Central Texas Memorial Day Weekend 2015

Historic flooding in Central Texas over Memorial Day Weekend 2015

Young woman rescued in San Marcos flood 2015

Firefighter Jay Horton rescues a young woman in San Marcos who had been waiting for hours while first responders struggled to find a way to reach her. (REUTERS/Don Anders/Anders Photography/Handout)

Nearly all of Texas has been affected by the historic flooding that occurred over Memorial Day weekend.  Houston freeways have been turned into rivers, downtown Austin was underwater Monday, some dams sit at the brink of destruction while others have already been breached.  In San Marcos alone, 300 homes have been destroyed and 1000 people have been displaced.  At least one person is confirmed dead.  In Wimberly, an unknown amount of homes have been completely removed from their foundations and destroyed.  There have been six confirmed deaths and 6 people remain missing, including 3 children.  Martindale has been deeply affected as well.  The devastation is indescribable.  So many of the people affected in the community had very little before the flood.  The small amount of possessions they have been able to accumulate has now been washed away or ruined by the wall of water that rushed through their homes in the early hours of Sunday morning.  The only positives in the communities of San Marcos, Wimberly, and Martindale, are the neighbors that are showing up with boots, gloves, shovels, and rakes to lend a helping hand.  Though our retail store and warehouse are located in Seguin and all of our employees made it through the flooding ok, the communities affected are our direct neighbors.  I live in San Marcos with my family and I felt a great need to go out and help the flood victims this week.  Artur, the owner of Polmedia, encouraged me to take the day off of work on Tuesday and be of service in any way that I could. The United Way and the Red Cross are organizing large numbers of volunteers to go out into the community to try to help.  A large part of the process is simply knocking on doors to assess the needs of flood victims.  There have been incredible amounts of donations pouring into designated drop off points, but there are many people who have lost their vehicles or do not have a vehicle and cannot get to these locations, so without volunteers delivering supplies, they would not be able to receive assistance.

Lending a Helping Hand

Flood Victims

David Barry consoles his 5-year-old daughter, Marley, while she tries to sleep in a flood evacuee room created at the San Marcos Activity Center, Sunday May 24, 2015, in San Marcos, Texas. The Barry family was evacuated from their apartment at 4 a.m. Sunday morning and was waiting to hear if they could return. (Erika Rich/Austin American-Statesman via AP) AUSTIN CHRONICLE OUT, COMMUNITY IMPACT OUT, INTERNET AND TV MUST CREDIT PHOTOGRAPHER AND STATESMAN.COM, MAGS OUT

The threat of more storms and a tornado spotted in town caused the city of San Marcos to ask residents to remain indoors on Monday afternoon while tornado sirens could be heard throughout the town.   It wasn’t until Tuesday that the city asked volunteers to go out into the affected neighborhoods to try to help.  These efforts are planned to continue throughout the weeks to come.  Tuesday morning nearly 400 people showed up with shovels in hand to try to help their neighbors clean up and salvage anything not completely ruined by the flood waters.  Knocking on doors and attempting to assess the needs of individual families is  an overwhelming task.  There is such a great need from the families affected by the flood that it leaves you wondering how they are going to make it?  Some of their homes have been completely ruined with no insurance or financial ability to start over.  There is help pouring in for the short-term, but the long-term effect the flood will have on these extremely low-income families is incalculable.

Flood Victim 2015

John’s house after the flood. Every possession he owns that survived the flood are stacked on this bench.

This is John (name changed to protect his identity), he is a senior citizen that uses a cane to get around. We were pointed in his direction by the police officers who walked tirelessly up and down the streets checking on citizens, escorting volunteers, and passing out food to flood victims (thank you to SMPD). They told us he was elderly and alone. Nothing can really prepare you for the site of inches of mud covering someone’s entire home or seeing the pictures that were taken over a lifetime (in the time before digital cameras and facebook could preserve memories forever) completely swallowed by the destructive force of water and mud. There is such a level of shock and sadness at the site of every possession a person owns lying in complete ruin on the floor. And the smell, the smell of sewage and who knows what else that was gathered and sent down the river during the flooding is extremely powerful to put it mildly. It took hours of shoveling, scraping, hosing, and mopping to clean the mud from just one room. As we worked, the floor tiles began pulling up and breaking apart. At one point, after John nearly slipped and fell down in the mud, it occurred to me that this man, likely in his 70s and walking with a cane, had nowhere to sit. I don’t know how long he had been on his feet by the time we were able to make some room for him to sit down on a small bench.  This bench held his few surviving possessions and kept them out of the reach of the mud.

Flood Victims 2015

John’s living room after we pushed out 3 inches of mud.

 

At the end of the day, we had cleared one room who’s drywall had been missing since the flood of Halloween 2013. The police officers brought John some lunch while we were there, but I don’t know where his next meal was going to come from. He told me he had been staying with his daughter and her family at night and that he had eaten dinner the previous night at the temporary shelter. I let him know that HEB was providing hot meals three times a day and left him sitting on his bench with his washed off, but probably ruined pictures and remaining possessions. The only feeling I could use to describe this moment would be an extremely deep and painful feeling of inadequacy. One room just doesn’t seem like enough. I don’t know what the future holds for John, a church group stopped by and said that they were going to be organizing professionals to volunteer to replace sheet rock and floor tiles.  I really hope they come to help him…I wish I could do more.

Ways YOU Can Help: 

Flood Victims 2015

Ruined mattresses at CM Allen homes on River Road in San Marcos, TX

So many people lost everything.  You can drive down any street on the East side of San Marcos and see piles of people’s entire possessions stacked on the curb waiting to be placed in dumpsters.  The same goes for Martindale and Wimberly.  There just aren’t enough bodies to go around and offer help.  With 400 volunteers on Tuesday, we barely scratched the surface of what is needed.  The need is great and it will take many helping hands to make a real difference.  If you are in Central Texas and would like to volunteer your time to help flood victims, you can find more information by clicking on this link.  If you would like to donate to an  organization that will give the money raised directly to flood victims, you can donate to The United Way of Hays County, here or you can text FLOODS to 41444.

San Marcos Flood 2015

There were no salvageable items left in this house on Pecan Street in San Marcos, TX

Flood Victims 2015

San Marcos Police Officers carrying warm meals to hand out to victims. You could see the care and concern in their eyes as they walked the streets on Tuesday.