Halloween Floods
3:01 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Austin, Travis County Works to Rebuild From Devastating Halloween Floods

Update (Monday): Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell has filed a resolution to declare a state of disaster in Austin in an effort to secure state and federal funding for affected areas. 

Leffingwell has also canceled Tuesday’s City Council work session to "allow our city departments to focus their efforts on recovery support" in flooded areas. Travis County Commissioners are set to approve a disaster declaration at Tuesday’s scheduled meeting. 

Police have identified an Onion Creek man swept away in Thursday's floodwaters as Edward Jackson, 72, who was one of five deaths as a result of the Halloween flooding. 

Both Barton Creek and Lady Bird Lake have reopened for boating after closures on Thursday, but the Austin Fire Department warns that debris and poor water quality may hamper and endanger boaters.

Classes resume Monday at Perez Elementary School. The school was shut down on Thursday and Friday because of flooding in the area. A school bus will stop by the Dove Springs Recreation Center to pick up families receiving assistance there.

Click here for information on how to help flood victims.

Update (Sunday): More than 500 homes were moderately to severely damaged in the floods in Austin’s Dove Springs and Onion Creek neighborhoods last week, according to local law enforcement and emergency officials at a media briefing Sunday afternoon.

The Austin Police Department continues to have a 24/7 presence in the neighborhood. Contractors can now access the impacted area and Police Chief Art Acevedo says APD will begin to hand out permits to residents so they can easily enter and exit area checkpoints. Chief Acevedo says the police department has not had any reports of looting.

Animal Control is also asking residents to report any large animal carcasses in the area, such as horses, goats or cows that may have drowned in the flood waters, but they are asking residents not to touch or remove the carcasses themselves.

Leaders in the Dove Springs community also attended Sunday’s briefing.

“The first few days, we were in shock, it was hurt. It was hurtful to see everything out there,” says Dove Springs resident George Morales.  He says residents are working together to help people clean their homes and find services they need.

As of Sunday afternoon, trails in the city are partially reopened, but people are asked to stay away from areas that have barricades or yellow tape. Barton Springs Pool remains closed due to the heavy rains, which made it unsafe to swim.

Update (Friday): There are now four confirmed deaths from this week’s flooding in Central Texas.

The remains of an eight-month-old boy were recovered Friday afternoon along Onion Creek, not far from where his mother’s body was recovered earlier in the day. 31-year-old Josefina Rodriguez and her son Jay were last heard from early Thursday morning as the flood waters were rising. 

Travis County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Roger Wade said “they were traveling down the road just like they do every morning. But this time the water came up and washed them off the road.”

Smithville Junior High teacher Tracy Ward died in Caldwell County Thursday morning on his way to work, says school superintendent Rock McNulty.

“He was just a kind-hearted quiet teacher who loved teaching kids with special needs,” McNulty says. He adds that Ward had just returned to teaching this year, after working for the Texas Department for Family and Protective Services.

Another victim of the flooding has yet to be identified: a man whose body was found in the Onion Creek area.

Onion Creek bore the brunt of the storm's damage: at least 17 homes were so damaged by the flood that they are no longer inhabitable.

City inspectors expect to finish checking about 1,100 homes in the area tonight. Homes with a red tag will be fenced off. Homes with a yellow tag have damage, but are safe to live in. 

The Onion Creek Forest subdivision will be open to vehicular traffic at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Contractors will not be allowed back in until Sunday morning at 8 a.m.

The Red Cross of Central Texas has opened a shelter at Parker Lane United Methodist Church. The Dove Springs Recreation Center will be open to offer assistance to flood victims from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, starting Saturday.

Evacuees that need to temporarily surrender pets can leave them with the Austin Humane Society. Anyone with flood damage to their home is asked to call 3-1-1 to report it.

Most low water crossings throughout the city have reopened – although several sustained damage. See the latest information at www.atxfloods.com.

The Austin Independent School District says Perez Elementary will be closed again Friday. All other AISD schools will be open – including Blazier and Palm Elementary Schools.

Lockhart ISD schools will resume on Monday. The elementary schools will have parent conferences today.

Capital MetroRail is resuming service between Leander and Kramer this morning. But Capital Metro warns trains may be moving slower than usual because of track repairs necessitated by flooding.

Flash flooding overnight Thursday sent water into hundreds of homes in the Austin area, leaving many people stranded and needing rescue.

Austin-Travis County EMS got more than 300 rescue calls in 12 hours, starting around 11:30 Wednesday evening. Emergency responders used boats and helicopters for rescues – in one case rescuing a man from a tree.

“This particular flood happened very quickly; it’s a very fast-moving flood,” says EMS director Ernesto Rodriguez. “It occurred at the worst time of day, at night, when people were asleep, so they had very little time to escape.”

The City of Austin evacuated three neighborhoods in the Onion Creek area: Onion Creek Subdivision, Onion Creek Plantation and Onion Creek Forrest. Most of those areas were being reopened to residents as of Thursday evening. 

“Obviously we’re still in the process of determining what records are, but I think I feel confident that there will be records set with this particular event,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell midday Thursday, about 12 hours after the rain began falling.

Power has been restored to a majority of Austin Energy customers that suffered outages. At one point, 8,500 customers were without power. Spokesperson Carlos Cordova said it was difficult for the utility to reach many of the homes immediately because they were  in flooded areas. See Austin Energy's outage map.

Pedernales Electric Cooperative and some Bluebonnet Electric customers also lost power in the Cedar Creek area.

All city trails are temporarily closed due to unsafe conditions caused by flooding. Watercraft are currently banned on Barton Creek and Lady Bird Lake. Barton Springs, which was due to re-open Thursday following clean up from Austin's last round of storms, remains closed. Watch dramatic footage of the flooding.