Five months after Memorial Day flooding brought the city of San Marcos, Wimberley and Martindale to their knees, Central Texas was once again battered by heavy rainfall on Oct 30.
At first it seemed like any other rainstorm. However, inches of rain quickly began to add up over the area, creating an all too familiar situation for residents.
As the floodwaters began to rise, they forced an emergency evacuation of Travis Elementary School.
Carlos Cortez, San Marcos resident, said his son was one of the many students that had to be transported off the campus in the early afternoon by an armored rescue vehicle.
Cortez said the rapidly rising water transformed the campus into an island and resulted in his son and two hundred of his classmates needing to be rescued by emergency workers.
“A six wheel high water rescue vehicle evacuated my son and 200 of his closet friends out of Travis,” Cortez said. “That awesome vehicle was able to get through the high water to get the children.”
Cortez said they put 20 to 30 kids on the vehicle each time and evacuated them to busses, which then transported them to Goodnight Middle School.
He said emergency responders kept each child calm throughout the entire ordeal.
“(My son) was jazzed about the whole thing,” Cortez said.
Elsewhere in the city, Amanda Stevenson, San Marcos resident, said she and her boyfriend were forced to evacuate through a window into a kayak with their two dogs to escape their flooded home.
Stevenson said she was alerted to the flooding by a Facebook post from the city at around 12:45 p.m.
When she went outside to check her surroundings, Stevenson said water was flowing quickly out of the manhole in the center of the street and the drainage ditches around her neighborhood.
Across the street, she could already see the river at her neighbor’s back door.
Stevenson knew she had to act fast. She ran through the house, picking up everything off the floor and placing it in a higher location.
She said working with flood victims in May prepared her for a flood emergency.
“I went from being someone who was helping all the victims as a volunteer during the Memorial Day floods to actually being a victim in October,” Stevenson said. “The one really beneficial thing I learned from helping all of the victims during the Memorial Day floods was how to better prepare my house.”
Stevenson said she and her boyfriend tried to stay in the house as long as possible to save their belongings, but eventually the water rose to high.
She said the whole ordeal taught her to leave earlier if she is ever faced with another flood.
“We wanted to try to stay as long as possible but it would have been a better decision to leave sooner because we ended up getting a bacteria infection on a couple places on our skin because we were walking through sewage water,” Stevenson said.
Picking up the Pieces
As Eric Jentsch, San Marcos resident, stood among what was left of his belongings, he said he found it hard to come to terms with loosing his newly built tiny home to the Halloween floodwaters.
A sketchbook filled with art laid muddied on the ground next to mismatched shoes and an overturned drawer full of mud stained clothes.
This was the new normal for Jentsch.
On the morning of Oct. 30, Jentsch said he woke up in Austin at around 8 a.m. to the sound of emergency flood warnings on his cellphone.
Then, around 9:30 a.m. he said he received a text from his landlord that said he was moving out important belongings as soon as possible because the area was beginning to flood.
By 11 a.m. that morning Jentsch said evacuation orders had been issued for his neighborhood.
He said since there was very little he could do for his home in San Marcos, he made the decision to try to save a home he had been working on as a landscaper in Austin.
“I’m working on a house up there that they were being threatened by floodwaters so I ran up there and made the decision that I couldn’t save my house so I’m just going to go try to save theirs,” Jentsch said.
Jentsch said he built the area he was living in as a shed years ago and then came in around July and started transforming it into a tiny home by finishing it out with drywall and sheetrock.
“It’s a process and I was really living in it by the first of September,” Jentsch said.
When the evacuation orders were lifted and Jentsch returned to his home, he said almost everything was gone.
“It got three feet at least maybe four feet of water, Jentsch said. “I ripped up everything out of it and tried to save what I could and washed the mud off of everything I could.”
A Community’s Call to Action
As soon as the rain started to fall on Oct. 30, Tanya Thornhill’s phone began ringing.
One the other end of the line were individuals who had been affected by the Memorial Day floods and were anxious to see if they would need to evacuate their homes once again.
Thornhill said she had been working as a volunteer in the community since the Memorial Day floods devastated the area.
On Oct. 30, she said she quickly began helping residents stay informed with river levels and letting people know when it was time to evacuate.
“I have a lot of people that I have been helping with flood relief over the past five months and my phone started ringing with them and many of them were scared and they were asking me if it was going to happen again,” Thornhill said.
Thornhill said she knew from the forecast that there was going to be rain that day, but she had no idea just how much water the community was about to see.
She said she began her efforts by contacting Dianne Wassinack, a member of the San Marcos River Foundation who helped her stay on top of river levels in the area.
“We started watching the levels closely and of course the ones between Wimberley and San Marcos weren’t working, but the one at Highway 80 from the Blanco River was working,” Thornhill said.
As she monitored the levels, Thornhill said at first it didn’t seem to be something to be concerned about.
At that point Thornhill said she began making phone calls to residents letting them know that everything was going to be okay and that the water was not expected to get to the levels it did Memorial Day weekend.
But then it kept raining, and the levels continued to rise.
When Thornhill watched the level at Highway 80 reach 42 feet, which was the same area it had reached during the Memorial Day flooding, she knew she had to act fast.
Thornhill said she began calling people back to tell them they needed to evacuate.
“It was some bad news that I had to tell people, but it was better that they get out then rather than having to be rescued later like some of them had to be on Memorial Day weekend,” Thornhill said.
Thornhill said she doesn’t live in a flood prone area, and her home did not receive damage in either flood.
Since she wasn’t affected, she said she wanted to use that opportunity to help those that weren’t s lucky to get back on their feet.
“Being a person that has lived in San Marcos for the past 30 years and all the friends and people that I know, I wanted to make sure that they knew what was happening,” Thornhill said. “The people in this community are amazing and everyone deserves a chance."