Last weekend, we drove to nearby Wimberley to look at damage from this year’s Memorial weekend flooding. Wimberley is a small, picturesque town somewhat reminiscent of Julian or Idyllwild in California. Wimberley has cool restaurants, old-fashioned ice cream shops, crafty stores, boot shops, family bakeries…….and a river runs through it. The Blanco River (Rio Blanco) was named by early Spaniards because of the pale limestone rocks that form much of the river bed and its banks. The Blanco is placid enough most of the time but with turbulent weather over the last several years it has developed a reputation. During May, rain pelted this area of Texas, swelling the Blanco.
Memorial Weekend, however, the river rose dramatically, clogging bridge areas and starting to take down trees. During the night unfortunately, the Blanco climbed to a crest of 43 feet, “drowning” 350 homes and killing 9 people. It happened very quickly because of an apparent jam-up of debris that suddenly let go and took part of a bridge with it.
An unsuspecting family vacationing in a cabin on the river certainly didn’t expect to have dark water rush into their cabin at 1:30 am, forcing them upstairs and eventually lifting the cabin off its foundation and sucking it into the now hugely swollen river. The father survived, with serious injuries, but the wife and two children were swept to their death. She was on the line with 911. There are some things that you just can’t easily forget.
The pictures we took are an indication of the extent of the disaster, which included the complete loss of any local Wimberley homes that were anywhere near the normal track of the river. If you want numbers, it was estimated that the river that night was flowing at over 220,000 cubic feet per second, more than 2-1/2 times Niagara Falls. We felt a bit guilty “rubbernecking” at the now peaceful river.
Highway signs (even parts of the highway), lawn chairs, furniture, vehicle wheels, pieces of trailers and other debris could be seen in the trees, some high up above the current river. There is one piece of indeterminate debris that has running lights, wrapped around a tree.
Broken and uprooted brush and rocks littered the banks of Rio Blanco, including massive trees that couldn’t possibly be moved by a river, except they actually were.
I talked to a golfer today who told me he was in Wimberley the day before the BIG flood. It rained a lot, then there was a short break, then it rained harder, then they decided to leave Wimberley and drive to Marble Falls. It rained hard over there as well. He says they were either smart or lucky.
The only positive I can think of is the rising level of Lake Travis in Austin. The drought isn’t over but there is more water available, at a cost.