For some friends of mine, this weekend was a very bad weekend indeed. Their area of town received 12 inches of rain Saturday evening to Sunday morning flooding a nearby creek and sending a lot of that water inside their home. That 12 inches was nearly half the yearly rainfall amount we’re supposed to get and it all came down in a 12 hour period. Officials are calling it rain event. I call it a rain bomb.
When I arrived to help my friends Sunday afternoon, they had the shell-shocked look of trauma victims.
Usually when I extend myself to help someone in need, I have this determined sense of let’s do what’s needed to help get the situation taken care of, but this time I didn’t have that feeling. As I was driving to their house, I found myself worrying about the state of their home and their property and what I would find. Questions popped up. What would be needed of me? Would I be able to help in the way they needed it? The questions faded in and out of my consciousness as I alternated between them and wondering what I would actually find.
When I got there, I was thankful to see that their property it was not near as bad as I thought it would be, but the state of my friends filled me with extreme concern, almost bordering on alarm. The husband was sitting in a chair, a dazed look on his face, and wet from both sweat and water that he was trying to get out of his house. The wife was in a little better shape. She was up and moving around, trying to stay organized as to what needed to be done at this initial stage of clean up. But even she had the wide-eyed and exhausted look of someone who was nearly at the end of her rope of endurance.
Dealing with life ain’t for sissies, but the best part is that we don’t have to deal with it alone.
When stuff happens, when life happens, sometimes all we want to do is throw up our hands, sit down and not do anything. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that’s actually all we can do until help arrives. In this case, my friends had the strength to start but the job is really way too big for them to complete on their own. My friends needed help from others to help them through this initial time of need.
Those of us living in Central Texas are hardy stock when it comes to things like this. Because of our topography, we are the flash flood capital of Texas and maybe even the United States. As weird as it seems, drought and flooding come hand in hand here and if it’s not one, it’s the other. I’ve been known to say that if we’re not in a drought, we’re being flooded out and my daughter claims that Texas weather is not to be trusted.
**Alert. Short history lesson ahead. **
On a much grander scale, the Colorado River (in Texas) is an unruly river and in order for flood control to be effective, it must be managed by no less than six dams in relatively close proximity. SIX DAMS. This was learned the hard way:
1900 – the Austin Dam, a technological marvel for it’s time was destroyed.
1913 – flooding merged the Colorado and adjacent Brazos rivers downstream of Columbus, forming a lake 65 miles wide.
1915 – the replacement Austin Dam was destroyed.
1935 – flooding inundated the downtown Austin district and sent the house in this picture swimming downstream.
1936 – flood waters that were more than double than the 1935 flood. The Congress Avenue bridge in downtown Austin was overwhelmed as the river overflowed it’s banks. Keep in mind that on a normal day, the roadbed of the bridge is roughly 50 feet above the river. I drive over the river twice a day going to and from work and this I simply can not imagine.
Enter the Lower Colorado River Authority. It’s initial mission was to complete Buchanan Dam (west of the small town of Burnet, which is northwest of Austin), where construction had been idle since the 1932 collapse and bankruptcy of a privately controlled public utility holding company.
1938 – luckily this time the rains fell northwest of the newly completed Buchanan Dam. Officials opened 22 of its 37 floodgates (which is still a record) to manage the excess water.
In the 1940’s the rest of the lakes were created and named the Highland Lakes. Since World War II, the LCRA has promoted the chain of lake’s potential as a recreation destination and now they have become the jewels of the Texas Hill Country in more ways than one.
Now to be honest, only one of the lakes is an actual holding tank for flood waters but the other five dams work in tandem regulating the flow of water into that holding lake so it can be safely released downstream. Thanks to the Highland Lakes, the city of Austin and all cities downstream have been since saved from catastrophic flood waters coming from upstream of Austin.
**History lesson over.**
Unfortunately we still get small stream flooding that my friends are now dealing with.
I was not the only person who showed up to help. As soon as we heard what happened we all stepped in and helped them any way we could. As of right now, my friend’s salvageable belongings are scattered all around the city as they are being graciously fostered until the day arrives when they can go home. That’s a lot better than having to rent a sterile cold-feeling storage unit don’t you think?
This is the awesomeness of friends. My friends had one family member with them, a cousin, but no others because they lived too far away. But my friends also had us, their friends, who stepped in and became their family. We are determined they’re not going to be alone while dealing with this. We are determined to hold them up and not let this beat them down. We may be friends, but we’re also family, albeit a different kind, and family sticks together.
Take care now and go and do good in the world.