Water, water everywhere
By LPR Staff
Forewarned is forearmed.
Though, by his own admission, Caldwell County Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey has “felt like the boy who cried wolf,” in recent weeks as weather forecasts failed to come to fruition in Caldwell County, that preparation and vigilance paid off on Saturday
night and the early hours of Sunday morning, as a wall of water approached the San Marcos River.
Ritchey reported to the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday morning that those past preparations for a severe weather event were instrumental in saving lives as evacuations were ordered from the San Marcos River area as the river swelled to the worst flood stage in generations.
“We knew it was going to be bad,” Ritchey said. “We knew this was coming, but we didn’t realize that the surge from the Blanco River was going to be as severe as it was.”
That severity triggered Caldwell County Judge Kenneth Schawe to declare a State of Emergency in Caldwell County, just after 3 a.m. on Sunday. That declaration paved the way for first responders to enact a mandatory evacuation, clearing dozens of residents from their homes before the river crashed in on them.
Unfortunately, some residents decided to ignore those warnings, and stay in place. It was a decision many would come to regret.
While the San Marcos River swelled around them, many residents of the Martindale area who chose not to evacuate were left with few options. After daylight on Sunday, while the River swelled from its banks, crossing Highway 80 and inundating bridges and roads, they were forced to climb to their rooftops, cling to trees… any means they could manage of keeping their heads above water for long enough for help to arrive.
That help did arrive. Dressed as volunteers from the county’s many swift-water rescue teams, Black Hawk helicopters deployed to assist with aerial rescues, and neighbors pulling people from their homes, help came to those who needed it.
Though numbers remain unclear in the fast-moving situation, rescuers enacted as many as 60 water rescues in the Martindale area while the river crested at the highest flood stage anyone in the area can remember.
Unlike the upstream communities in Wimberley and San Marcos, Caldwell County escaped the flood with no lives lost, thanks in large part to the cooperative efforts of the rescue teams, and the training and preparation they have undertaken in the past, Ritchey said.
“Every training we have done, every piece of equipment, everything those folks have done was preparing us for this moment,” he told the Court.
In the aftermath, however, search and recovery teams continue to comb the banks of the San Marcos River in Caldwell County, searching for those who remain unaccounted for in San Marcos and Wimberley. The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on Tuesday that one body had been recovered in those efforts, which are expected to continue until the last of the missing are found.
Though the flood waters are receding, the Blanco and San Marcos River floods, compounded with the torrential Memorial Day rains, have created chaos throughout the county.
With nowhere left for the water to flow, Plum Creek and its tributaries began to rise on Monday afternoon, backing up over roadways and bridges well removed from the points of focus on the river. Additionally, much of Lockhart was under water as the local drainage systems struggled to keep up with the more than four inches of rain that fell in less than three hours.
Late on Monday afternoon, the Caldwell County Unit Road System, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and the Lockhart Police Department ran out of barricades, and were forced to station personnel and apparatus at water crossings, in an attempt to keep careless drivers away.
In Lockhart, more than half a dozen cars were swamped with water as they tried to pass flooded areas.
As a result of the heavy flooding, Caldwell County has been added to Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide disaster declaration. Though the damage tolls are not yet available, Ritchey expects that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will become involved in local relief efforts, as much of Texas is likely to be declared a Federal disaster area.
For now, the community is coming together to assist in flood recovery.
The American Legion and VFW Post 8279 are collecting donations of goods such as soaps and shampoos, toothbrushes and toothpaste and other household supplies to distribute to those who have been displaced by the flooding. Donations of clothing and furniture are not needed at this time.
The Lockhart Ministerial Alliance has also sought a fund to help with financial solutions for the victims. Monetary donations may be mailed to the Ministerial Alliances Disaster Fund, PO Box 336, Lockhart, Texas, or dropped of at the First United Methodist Church, Lockhart Chamber of Commerce, Sage National Bank in Luling, or the Martindale Baptist Church.
Watch www.post-register.com, or follow us on Facebook for more information about local relief efforts as they become available.