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Despite the severity of destruction to their home, Carlos and Kandi Cortez have remained optimistic through the rebuilding process and plan on continuing to live in their house with their three children.

It was 4 a.m. on the morning of May 24 when Carlos Cortez was awakened by an unfamiliar sound.

As he turned over in bed, he began to make out water coming in through the windowsill of the family’s master bedroom.

Carlos said he immediately went to secure their three kids.

Meanwhile, Kandi Cortez, Carlos’ wife, said she raced to call 911 after waking up and noticing the sheetrock in the house was beginning to move in towards the family.

“I called them and I asked them to please help us and they told me they already had over 100 people to rescue and they would send someone as soon as possible,” Kandi said. “We were stuck for hours trying to figure out what was going to happen and I was just hoping that a miracle would happen.”

Carlos said he was making his way towards their bedrooms when he met his 13-year-old son Daniel in the hallway.

Carlos said the pair witnessed a pair of French doors that lead to the family’s backyard bursting open under the pressure of the water.

This was the moment the water went from being a small middle-of-the-night burden to a life-threatening situation, Carlos said.

After realizing rescue would not immediately be coming, Carlos said the family gathered to hang on to the doors leading to their backyard with the water sitting at his chest.

Kandi said she held on to their Chihuahua Amber throughout the ordeal, but she struggled to keep their lab above water.

She said the house never lost power, which was both comforting and scary after the family realized the nearby power outlets were electrocuting them each time they brushed up against them.

“The electrical outlets were shocking us and I was trying to hang on to my lab Annie and she kept scratching me so I finally had to let her go and hop that she could hang on with us,” Kandi said.

As the sun began to rise, Carlos said he decided to move his family to the roof to await rescue. When daybreak finally came, Carlos said his son spotted what looked like a news helicopter.

Shortly after that, a Blackhawk search and rescue helicopter began circling the neighborhood. Despite losing everything to the floodwaters, Carlos and his family remain optimistic.

“You’ve got to keep a positive outlook in this type of situation, or at least I want to,” Carlos said.

Carlos said he has seen the home flood before, but those few inches of water never came close to the amount of that filled the house over Memorial Day.

Carlos, who grew up in the home, said the family plans to stay in San Marcos and recently finished the rebuilding process.

“This is where I’ve always wanted to live and raise my family, and I never for one second thought about leaving,” Carlos said. “This is my family home and its been in my family for decades.”

Although the family was hit hard from the flooding, Kandi said they gained a new appreciation for the community after the ordeal.

“The neighborhood has never been tighter than it is now,” Carlos said. “People were really looking out for each other during the flood.”

Jesslyn Bordine was able to repair her home and property through the efforts of many volunteers in her community in the seven months following the Memorial Day weekend floods.

The night of May 24 was particularly dark when Jesslyn Bordine grabbed a book and got ready for bed.

It had been raining for quite some time, but Bordine said she hadn’t been particularly worried that evening.

“I’ve been her for many floods when the water came up and I’m pretty high up on a hill and never thought the house would flood,” Bordine said. “The other side of the river where I live was a lot lower for a long way and I just assumed any water would go over there.”

Bordine said she continued to check outside her window, and began seeing water coming up into her backyard each time the lightning flashed.

“I don’t think I was worried it was going to flood at that point I just didn’t like listening to it because it was real loud,” Bordine said. “Then I started hearing these loud cracks happening one after the other and I actually called the police and told them that someone must be shooting a gun off on the other side of the river.”

Bordine said she then realized the noise she was hearing was actually trees and limbs breaking off under the power of the rising water.

Bordine said this realization made her anxious, so she decided to grab her pillow, robe and iPad and drive up the hill next to her home.

“I didn’t really think I was being foolish at the time because that noise was a little unnerving,” Bordine said.

After about an hour on the hill, Bordine said she began to see the headlights of her neighbors cars light up the landscape below.

Soon, Bordine said numerous people started driving up the hill beside her, including former Wimberley mayor Bob Flocke, who instructed Bordine to follow him out the back way.

Before they left, Bordine said the renters living in the cottage on her property came walking up beside her barefoot with just the clothes on their backs.

She said they told her the water had started coming in through the door and while they were walking from the cottage to the road, which is about 200 feet, the water came up to the point where they were wading waist deep.

“Then they walked up the hill a ways to where I was and I told them to get in with me and we drove out,” Bordine said.

Bordine said the floodwaters eventually rose as high as five and a half feet inside her home, ruining almost all of her belongings.  

“This stuff that comes in the water is awful,” Bordine said. “It’s gritty and it’s an experience that people really don’t understand until it happens to them.”

She said it was frightening to come back to her home after the waters receded and see the destruction that lay where she had once slept.

“It was much later that it occurred to me that I probably would have been killed if I had stayed in bed instead of leaving the house when I did,” Bordine said. “The water came up like a wave and my bed where I was reading was on the bottom and there was a sofa and other furniture on top it.”

Bordine said her house and cottage had to be redone over the course of seven months.

She said volunteers helped put sheetrock in the cottage for free, and a builder from the community offered to put up sheetrock and repaint her home at a reduced cost.

Bordine said the efforts volunteers from all over the community devoted to helping her get back on her feet were inspiring.

“I couldn’t believe that people just walked up that had never met me and offer to help and people are still giving me stuff for my house to this day,” Bordine said. “Almost everything I own now was given to me and it’s just really the most amazing feeling to know that people are so generous and so kind.”

Martindale residents Derrick and Angie Flack focused on giving back to their community by collecting new and gently used furniture and donating them to flood victims.

A local Martindale family learned the best way to cope with the loss of their home during the Memorial Day flooding was to give back to other flood victims in the community.

Derrick and Angie Flack, owners of Dianne Flack Furniture in San Marcos, collected new and gently used furniture during the months of June and July to help individuals looking to replace damaged items after flooding destroyed many homes in the area.

Angie said the operation continued for around 6 to 8 weeks after the flood and resulted in four 40-foot containers of furniture being donated to the community.

“Many of the people coming in to look for furniture during that time were thinking rationally like I know we weren’t,” Angie said. “Instead they were just trying to find the bare essentials and our community came together and made donations to help them.”

The couple and their three children were one of the many families who lost everything after four feet of floodwaters filled their house and swept away their belongings.

Angie Flack said she and her husband were at their home in Martindale when Angie became aware of a wall of water heading straight for the families home from the Blanco River .

“I just started hearing this thundering sound, and then this big wall of water came up in our yard literally within seconds,” Angie said. “I jumped into the back of our truck and my husband drove about a hundred down our road.”

When they arrived at the front of their property, Angie realized the bridge that would normally take them to safety was submerged in water.

As a helicopter watched from above and water began to fill in from every direction, Angie said her husband decided he had to go for it.

“Normally we would never have gone over the bridge like that but we got across it and then our truck stalled and died, but we made it,” Angie said.

She said the first couple of months after the flood were challenging for their furniture business.

“That’s not where people’s hearts were at,” Angie said.

She said Memorial Day weekend is typically one of the best weekends of the year for furniture sales, but the store didn’t bounce back until almost two months after the flood.

“Our business was pretty much non-existent for a while after the Memorial Day flood,” Angie said. “Then it shot way back up and we had one of our best month ever in July when everyone started replacing their furniture.”

Angie said providing a place for people to donate and flood victims to collect from was a great way for the family to take their mind off their own tragedy.

“I remember a couple days after the flood I was sitting there and I was just in shock, like I’m sure everybody else was,” Angie said. “To me, the only way to make something good out of this was to try to do something good.”

Chris Birkhimer poses for a photo outside the doors of the Hill Country Christian School.

As floodwaters raced towards San Marcos early May 24, Chris Birkhimer, youth pastor for Hill Country Christian, raced to save his school.

Birkhimer said a gut feeling woke him at around 3 a.m. and pushed him to check on the buildings early as floodwaters raced towards the church and private school, which serves kids from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

“I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got on my Twitter and saw that the Blanco River was rapidly rising and about to break its own record for flooding,” Birkhimer said. “At that point I was still groggy and couldn’t realize what I was doing but I just put on my rain boots and told my wife I was going to make sure the school was not underwater.”

Birkhimer said the extent of the flooding began to set when he pulled into the schools parking lot and realized it was not rain water, but river water getting closer and closer to the building.

As he stood in the parking lot where others had gathered to move their vehicles, Birkhimer said he remembered seeing a wall of muddy water moving towards him.

It was at that point Birkhimer said he realized he needed to make a plan.

Around 4 a.m., Birkhimer said he was joined by the senior pastor and his son in the race to save electronics and other classroom valuables from the rising water.

Water came within 15 to 20 feet of the church steps before beginning to recede, Birkhimer said. The school, which sits closer to the river, wasn’t so lucky.

Birkhimer said within an hour of his arrival the Blanco River had burst through the front door of the gym, which faces the river, and filled the entire first floor of the school with close to a foot of water.

He said it took about 15 minutes for the water to race through the gym into the schools cafeteria and behind the building.

While some items could be salvaged, Birkhimer said the gym floor and many classroom items, including desks and books, were ruined.

“Pretty much everything on the first floor of the school building needed to be removed,” Birkhimer said. “We (had) to cut the drywall from the floor up to about two feet high to get the water out before it rots the wood inside.”

Birkhimer said the loss was further intensified by a lack of flood insurance.

Both facilities are considered a high risk for flooding by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, making them ineligible for coverage.

“When we bought the property it had never been touched by the Blanco River,” Birkhimer said. “Then a few years ago FEMA moved us up to a higher risk level and we were no longer able to buy flood insurance because of the risk.”

Birkhimer said the Memorial Day flood taught members of the school and church how to work together and better serve each other and the community.

“No matter what happens, the adversity that comes against us, when we just love one another and be who god calls us to be it can have an amazing outcome.”

Eric Jentsch poses for a photo outside his home on River Road.

As floodwaters surrounded River Road on May 24, Eric Jentsch and his family waited patiently to reenter their neighborhood and see for themselves what was left of their home.

When they returned, they found the home still standing with three of their neighbor’s homes strewn across their front yard.

Jentsch said they later learned water came just three feet from the house before subsiding.

For the next couple of weeks, Jentsch said CNN and other media outlets used the family’s front yard as the base for their coverage shots.

Although the water never hit the families home, Jentsch said it tore away most of the trees from the roots and transformed the neighborhoods scenery overnight.

“Its crazy to see how it could change the entire landscape of our community in one day,” Jentsch said.

Jentsch said he has always held a deep appreciation for the river and the positive times it has granted him during his time in Wimberley as a child and in San Marcos while he was attending Texas State University.

“It’s kind of like a person that you love,” Jentsch said “They might go crazy every now and then and you can’t blame them.”

Jentsch said he knows many people who came to the city because of the river, and as a result he considers it to be a key factor in the strong sense of community throughout the region.

“I’ve been in the area for a long time and this town was built on community,” Jentsch said. “The river person inside of me gets so excited to see how big the flood got, but then I have all these friends that are hurting and I see the destruction and that makes me hurt also.”

Jentsch said he always knew the community in San Marcos was special, but he never knew how truly exceptional his neighbors were until the Memorial Day flooding took place.

“I have learned that anything can happen and that I need to be willing to change,” Jentsch said. “The experience has also shown me that my friends are amazing and this community is to.”