Memorial Day Flood

Marjorie Kamys Cotera

The 40-foot wall of water that gushed down the Blanco River in May 2015, wiping out parts of Wimberley and killing more than a dozen people, was largely a natural phenomenon. But a new study shows that development along the waterway made its impact on the fast-growing Central Texas community that much worse. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened up a public comment period for new floodplain maps for Caldwell, Guadalupe, Gonzales and Hays counties, showing a significant increase in flood risk, especially in places that recently experienced devastating floods.   

Jacob Croft Botte

From Texas Standard:

The Blanco River is only 87 miles long, winding its way from the tiny Central Texas community of Lindendale to the city and river of San Marcos.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Grey humid weather brings some anxiety to the residents of Martindale in Central Texas. Many of them are still recovering from last year’s Memorial Day floods.


Jorge Sanhueza Lyon/KUT

UPDATE: After our story was originally published, we heard from several members of Flood Mitigation Task Force, who disputed the assertions made by some task force members, including the group’s chairman, who said the final report lacked prioritization.

An executive summary of the report, not available at Monday’s meeting of the Council's Public Utilities committee, whittles down the nearly 200 recommendations into 19 high priority ones. Topping that list is the creation of a city-wide policy that prioritizes life, safety and property when it comes to flooding. The task force recommends that the city then consider this when making upcoming budget decisions.

In conversations with other members of the task force, some took issue with chairman Matt Reinstra’s presentation of the report to the Public Utilities Committee. At that time, he did not present the executive summary to council members because it had not yet been finalized by the task force.

“Many of the things he mentioned as recommendations were very minor things that were in there,” said task force member Ken Jacob. “We’re trying to come forward and say this is important. This is something you, the council, needs to pay attention to and the city needs to pay attention to because it’s a big issue.”

Jacob also cautioned against considering too heavily the report’s note that, at the city’s current rate of improvements, it would cost $2 to $4 billion to address local flooding issues.

“The numbers are just estimates [staff] were able to pull out there,” said Jacob. “And they’re going to have to do more work on that to finalize it.”

ORIGINAL STORY: Nearly a year after floodwaters wrecked businesses and homes in Austin over Memorial Day, members of the city’s Public Utilities Committee heard a rundown of a report from the city’s Flood Mitigation Task Force.

It’s a 89-page document bursting with nearly 200 recommendations for city staff – among them, suggestions to replace aging storm drainage systems and enhancing public outreach by the city’s Watershed Protection Department. According to the report, the total cost of these recommendations ranges from $2 billion to $4 billion.


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