AUSTIN (KXAN) — The devastating flood on Onion Creek last fall shocked first responders and families. Now, a new report suggests it could happen again.
A researcher at the University of Texas told city leaders in Austin to expect another flood there, and says it is important to buy back homes now rather than wait any longer.
“It was a mistake,” Dr. David R. Maidment, a hydrology professor, said. “The subdivision should have never been built there in the first place. It was built there a long time ago, and now we’re trying to deal with the consequences of that.”
Maidment also says government agencies need to work together. The report says the Halloween flood was the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane, and that the next flood could be worse.
A look around Onion Creek neighborhood today shows that most houses in the floodplain have been left abandoned, their owners choosing not to come back.
But one couple who has been here since 1994 chose to accept the risk and stay put.
“The water was about four feet already inside of the house,” Manuela Alcantar said. “And it was horrible.” Jose and Manuela Alcantar live in the Onion Creek floodplain with their two dogs. Jose has been in a wheelchair for 20 years.
“This is the only thing we had,” Manuela said, referring to her couch. After floodwaters devastated their house, they slept in their garage for months. “This couch knows how much I cried and how much we went through.”
But they almost didn’t make it.
“I had my water right here,” Jose said, pointing to the top of his chest.
“He told me to save myself,” Manuela said. “And I said ‘no, if you drown, I will drown with you.’ I couldn’t live with myself if he drowned and I saved myself.”
Jose and Manuela chose not to accept their buyout offer. “We’re too old to make a move,” Manuela said.
And they say they have come to terms with the risk that comes with staying here.
“If God says this is going to be your thing, you’re coming home with this, we’ll be ready,” Manuela said. “Nothing else we can do.”
Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday discussed the progress of the flood buyout process, saying they still face a steep hurdle.
It will cost the county about $1.5 billion to make offers to every property owner in just the unincorporated parts of the county.