halloween floods

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Community health workers – or promotoras de salud – with the Latino Health Care Forum are collecting data about people still living in Dove Springs after the Halloween floods.

"We have heard a lot of really sad stories …you just start crying," says promotora Norma Lopez. “We’re going to be working on-hand with our people. Refer them to whatever they need, any kind of help.”

Promotoras say they spent about a month getting feedback from people who still need help, especially medical care. The results will identify Dove Springs families still in need.

Connie Gonzaes, Facebook

As people are gearing up for Thanksgiving, many families impacted by last month’s flooding are still trying to put their lives back together.The floods severely damaged more than 600 homes and many of those people still don’t have a permanent place to stay.

But residents came together Sunday night to provide some flood victims with a Thanksgiving dinner and a place to escape the cold temperatures, if only for a few hours.

The event was organized by Dove Springs resident Robert Kibbie and Pastor Richard Villarreal with The Springs Community Church. Overall, 120 meals were served. Volunteers also delivered 60 meals to people who were not able to attend the actual event.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

This year, KUT News is chronicling the challenges and changes affecting Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood in a series called “Turning the Corner.”

These stories have taken on added urgency in the aftermath of Austin’s Halloween floods, where flooding directly affected many Dove Springs residents. 

Bene Jacobs’ morning routine hasn’t changed that much. She still gets up before 6 a.m., before it’s light outside.

In the darkness, at her cousin’s house in Del Valle, Bene struggles to find her way into the room where her children sleep. “Still learning all the light switches,” she whispers.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The region's Halloween’s floods caused some $14 million in damage in Travis County. But it doesn’t look like the county will get federal assistance.

That’s what Emergency Management coordinator Pete Baldwin told the Travis County Commissioner’s Court yesterday. In order to get Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, the state has to have at least $35 million in damage.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Early on the morning of Oct. 31, as waters rose to historic levels in Onion Creek, two of the flood gauges that officials rely on to monitor water levels weren't working. The flooding heavily damaged more than 600 homes and killed five.

One gauge was completely submerged by water, damaging the equipment – which isn't waterproof. But the other had malfunctioned before the flooding even began. And more than two weeks after the Halloween Floods, city and emergency officials still don't know why.

The gauges, which are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), provide emergency responders with critical information during floods about how fast and how high flood waters are rising. In Austin, there are 130 flood gauges that measure water levels, rainfall and low-water crossings 24 hours a day.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

State lawmakers hosted a town hall meeting in a Dove Springs school last night. It’s not the first meeting for victims of the Halloween flooding, but many are still facing the same frustrations as they grapple with more questions than answers about the future of their homes.

At Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs, the scene was familiar – dozens of flood survivors gathered inside a school cafeteria to get help.  

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, was present to try and answer questions from people like Lillie Flores, whose house was gutted by the flood. She was frustrated, trying to figure out more about a new fund that Rep. Rodriguez has helped set up with State Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin. It's the Austin-Travis County Flood Relief Fund.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update (Wednesday): State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and State Sen. Judith Zaffirini are hosting the second of two Austin-Travis County flood relief fund town halls tonight. The event is at Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.  

On Facebook, Rep. Rodriguez writes a warm dinner will be served, and that Capital Metro shuttle service between Mendez Middle School and Perez Elementary School will be available. 

Travis County is hosting a meeting on home buyouts for the Timber Creek area tonight. “Buyout applications are used to seek additional funding, apply for grants, and advise the Commissioners Court on budgetary needs for buyout,” the county says.

The meeting, for Timber Creek residents only, is tonight at the South Rural Community Center in Del Valle, at 6:30 p.m.

Jay JannerMCT /Landov

Update (Monday): The city has released new information regarding the Halloween floods that claimed five lives. Here’s some numbers conveying the extent of the damage:

  • 659: Number of homes damaged
  • 259: Number of homes that received major damage                           
  • 15:  Number of homes destroyed
  • 1,300: Tons of debris removed from the affected area

Residents of southeast and southwest Austin are still in need of help. Fortunately, there’s several ways you can lend a hand.


The Austin Disaster Relief Network is looking for volunteers to help with demolition and cleanup of affected areas. Volunteers are asked to wear jeans, gloves, masks, and hard sole shoes, and bring shovels, utility knives, and hammers if possible.

Mose Buchele, KUT News

A dead horse, dog, goat, and deer were among the putrefying animals that clean-up volunteers found today along a small strip of Onion Creek in the Bluffs Springs neighborhood of Travis County. 

"Somebody should be helping, at least coming and getting these animals out of here. I mean, they're decaying where [people] live," said Lina Meaux, a volunteer helping in the cleanup efforts.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

In Onion Creek, the sun shone brightly Friday morning. It’s a welcome change from a week ago, when flood waters devastated the southeast Austin neighborhood.

But that’s not what’s giving survivors hope. The hope comes from seeing FEMA investigators taking pictures and measurements.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

When an explosion leveled the town of West, state and federal politicians descended on the town, alongside state and federal aid workers.

But so far, the deadly flooding in southeast Austin and Travis County has not received the same kind of attention.

So why the difference in response?

Preston Culver, Austin Fire Department

More than 120 pets have been brought in to the Austin Humane Society since the city's Halloween floods.

Some were rescued from the water – as seen in this photo of a dog rescue that’s been shared 7,700 times on Facebook. Others were dropped off by their owners, who need a safe place for their animals to stay while they get back on their feet.

Humane Society spokesperson Kelly Hanes says dozens of animals have been reunited with loved ones. But many others remain unclaimed – including Panda, the German Shepherd-type dog seen hugging an Austin firefighter as he carried her from the flood waters.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The floods last Thursday in Onion Creek and Dove Springs damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes, displacing families – many of them with children. 

Bene Jacobs, her partner Lawrence, and their three children are one such family. They were rescued from the roof of her neighbor's home.

“My five year old was holding my 16 month old on top of the roof," she says.

While her family is okay, her home has been condemned.

“All of the walls are buckled and the tree fell on top of the roof so they said it’s no longer safe to enter the premise, so it’s fenced off," she says.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Halloween flooding in Onion Creek devastated an already underserved community in southeast Austin. Now, people like 18-year-old Frank Amaya need help with the cleanup of their streets and neighborhoods.

"My home was flooded. All three cars were totaled. My Dodge ended up in a forest all crushed with other cars," Amaya said. He was one of the hundreds of people who came to Perez Elementary School Tuesday night to vent frustrations with city officials and learn about recovery efforts.


More than 500 people crammed into the cafeteria of Perez Elementary School in Dove Springs, where city officials — including Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo and Deputy City Manager Michael McDonald  — answered questions about recovery efforts.

Dove Springs residents expressed anger when City Deputy Manager Michael McDonald said Red Cross and Austin Fire began rescues early Thursday morning, with one resident shouting, "No! No one came to my house!"

But the tone of the meeting shifted visibly when Police Chief Art Acevedo took to the microphone and apologized for inconsistencies in the city's response.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Residents and teachers at Perez Elementary say little information was distributed to residents immediately after flooding in Austin's Onion Creek and Dove Springs neighborhoods last week, leaving some residents confused and unsure where to turn — especially those who don't speak English.

When Pompilio Perez left his home in Dove Springs to go to work at 5 a.m. last Thursday morning. It was raining, but there was no sign of flooding. Thirty minutes later he couldn’t even drive down his own street where his wife, Ana, and his three children were at home. Ana Perez and her kids were rescued from their roof and, by Saturday, they had returned. At that point, she says, they hadn’t received any help.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Austin and Travis County leaders have declared states of disaster in the wake of last week’s flooding, with more than 600 homes damaged and 37 destroyed. It's the first step in getting federal disaster aid. Officials and residents are still working to clear away debris, while emergency responders continue to provide shelter, food and help as victims figure out their next steps.

On South Pleasant Valley Road in Dove Springs, volunteers set up underneath tents along the road handing out everything from blankets and diapers to deodorant. Neighborhood association president Edward Reyes, says people remaining in their homes could face complications as a result of flood damage.

Kate McGee for KUT News

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. 

Barton Springs Pool was supposed to re-open today. The beloved swimming hole had closed following heavy rains and flooding two weeks ago.

Cleanup at the pool was finally complete. But in the video below, you’ll see rain this morning has flooded the pool again: