Memorial Day Weekend was different this past year. A flood ripped through the Texas Hill Country in Governor Greg Abbott called “the highest flood we’ve ever had recorded in the history of Texas,” claiming the lives of 10 people, while two remain missing. Hundreds lost their homes and the cities of San Marcos and Wimberley are continuing to recover, over six months later.
The evacuation emails came in at 3 a.m. It was May 24 and students living along the Blanco River were urged to evacuate and head to higher ground, for most that was the San Marcos Activity Center that served as a shelter in the days that followed.
As apartment complexes near IH-35 filled up with water and students took to social media with posts of flooded rooms and disappearing cars, a different kind of horror was taking place on the other side of the Blanco River.
The McCombs family was floating down the river.
Visiting Wimberley from Corpus Christi, the family of four had come for the holiday weekend. They were staying in a vacation home with five family friends alongside the Blanco River.
When the storm hit, the family thought they were safe since the house was elevated on stilts. But 20 minutes later, a wall of water that rose to 45 feet, the highest ever since 1929, was outside the window of the house.
After a large thud, maybe a tree or debris, McCombs and his wife Laura and two kids, Andrew, 6, and Leighton, 4, began to float down the river.
That is when Laura called her sister Julie to tell her she loved her. Eventually, the house split a part and Jonathan was left to swim for his life.
He was able to crawl out of the river and go to a nearby house for help. He made it out with a broken sternum and rib and a collapsed lung. But the injuries that you can’t see wouldn’t be known until a few days later.
As the days passed, news of the nine people McCombs was vacationing with popped up in the news. The bodies of retired dentist Ralph Carey, 73; and his wife, Sue, 71; their daughter, Michelle Charba, 43; her husband, Randy, 42; and their 6-year-old son, William were found in the days to come along with McCombs’ wife and son. His daughter remains missing.
McCombs remains the lone survivor of the Memorial Day Weekend floods.
The affects of the flood are far-reaching— Hays County and the city of San Marcos are continuing to rebuild and repair what was lost with damages costing millions of dollars with hundreds of families misplaced from their homes.
How much damage was caused and why has sparked many debates at San Marcos City Hall, with city council members wondering if the construction of an apartment complex near Blanco Gardens neighborhood worsened the flood damage or did nothing at all.
Although the damage caused by the flood is still felt throughout the winding hills of San Marcos and its neighbor, Wimberley, one thing is for certain— the city and its martians came together like never before when needed.