Heavy rains and flooding Oct. 30-31 caused millions of dollars of damage throughout Central Texas and has displaced dozens of families.

The damage has left many Hays County residents without occupiable homes, and many are asking what is being done to mitigate or prevent future damage.

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Bill West, general manager of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, said a study conducted by the GBRA and the Army Corps of Engineers is looking at how to prevent future damage.

Long-term solutions could include creating an alternate route for the Blanco River during flooding events, West said. The river currently winds through Hays County, and its indirect path contributes to flooding during heavy rain events, he said.

In the near term, the GBRA is collaborating with Blanco, Caldwell and Hays counties as well as the city of San Marcos to add river and rain gauges along the Blanco River. The new gauges will allow for better monitoring of water levels during flood situations and should provide more time for residents to be evacuated during an extreme weather event, West said.

On Nov. 5, the Office of the Governor announced it was releasing $6 million to be put toward disaster prevention throughout the state.

“There are a lot of people working on improving the situation,” West said. “Now that the governor’s office has recognized the need for additional funding, hopefully we can get some of that money.”


Buda Planning Director Chance Sparks said the initial estimates put the damage at about $4 million in the city of Buda. In all, 147 household units—including houses and apartments—reported some form of damage, he said.

In 2014, Buda voters passed a $7 million bond proposition that will construct drainage improvements throughout flood-prone areas in the city. The drainage project is currently under design.

In Kyle, initial estimates indicate that floods caused about $467,000 of damage to public infrastructure. Officials hope to mitigate future flood damage

Dianne Wassenich, executive director of the San Marcos River Foundation, said the best thing Central Texas cities can do to prevent damage from future floods is to stop building in flood plains.

“We’ve got to stay away from creeks and tributaries,” Wassenich said. “We know what happens now. We can see what happens.”

West said there is a possibility the study with the Army Corps of Engineers could indicate small dams along the Blanco River as a viable option for controlling future flooding. But he said previous efforts to build large-scale dams near Wimberley essentially ended before they even began because of strong resistance from the community.

A large dam would also likely be cost-prohibitive, Wassenich said. It is much more likely municipalities will consider offering buyouts to homeowners who live in flood-prone areas.

“When you get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about dollars and cents and cost efficiency, which is your taxpayer money, buyouts win every time,” she said. “It’s done all over the country, because that’s what’s cost-effective.”

The city  of San Marcos will likely take up discussion of buyouts soon, City Manager Jared Miller said. One of the determining factors will be whether the city receives federal assistance to complete buyouts.

Miller  said the city may consider buyouts if federal assistance does not come through, but that would require more creativity.

“Any time you take millions of federal dollars out of the equation that makes it a lot more difficult,” he said.

The provision of federal funds for buyouts will depend largely on how much total damage was done throughout Texas from the storm system that caused the October floods.

ComparisonOfficials hope to mitigate future flood damage

According to the GBRA, the Blanco River reached a depth of 43.06 feet at the Hwy. 80 bridge in San Marcos on May 24. On Oct. 30 it reached a depth of 42.56 feet.

On May 24 more than 10 inches of rain fell in Kendall and Blanco counties. The water found its way to the Blanco River, which contributed to the 40-foot-tall wall of water many residents reported seeing tear through Wimberley.

On Oct. 30 portions of western Hays County received 6-8 inches of rain near the Blanco River, and the following day portions of San Marcos, Kyle and Buda received more than 10 inches of rain. As much as 16 inches of rain was reported near Kyle.

“The whole situation was that so many rivers and creeks got so much rain, and they all converged in San Marcos,” Wassenich said. “It was a mess and could have been a lot worse if we had had heavy rainfall right here in town.”

But the October floods caused more widespread damage than the May event, which mostly affected areas along the Blanco River, said Courtney Goss, volunteer coordinator with the Blanco River Regional Recovery Team, or BR3T.

The BR3T has been mobilizing volunteers and connecting those affected by the floods with resources. Goss said she believes about twice as many people were affected in Hays County during the October flood compared with the May flood.

“[The October flood was] not isolated,” Goss said. “It’s everywhere. It’s way more widespread than it was on Memorial Day, which is apparent when you go to the [multiagency resource center in Kyle] and see someone whose home was devastated by a tornado in Seguin, and then you have someone coming all the way from Buda who was flooded.”

Relief efforts

There is concern among some relief organizations that people are fatigued from giving after the Memorial Day weekend floods and the Bastrop fires.

Goss said three days after setting up the volunteer resource center in San Marcos, the BR3T had recruited four volunteers to help with relief efforts throughout the entire county.

“People are tired,” she said. “People are exhausted. They spent all their resources, all their time—they took off all their time from work—after Memorial Day. If they had extra funds, they gave then. If they had extra furniture or anything, they gave it then.”

Daniel Geraci, executive director of Austin Disaster Relief Network, an organization composed of 158 churches, said after the May floods his organization helped raise $200,000-$300,000 in less than a week for flood relief. In total, ADRN has raised about $1.3 million for relief from the May event. Six days after the October floods his organization had barely raised $5,000.

Geraci said although the level of devastation is similar between the two events, news outlets have not been covering the October floods with as much fervor as the May floods.

“It’s more devastating than the eye can see,” he said.

The Rev. Todd Salmi with San Marcos First United Methodist Church was at the San Marcos Activity Center on Oct. 30, distributing food, diapers and toys to residents evacuated from their homes. Salmi said the lessons learned during the May floods are being put to use in the most recent recovery efforts.

“I’m sad we have to use lessons we learned only five months ago, but I feel like we’re more on top of it this time around,” Salmi said.