AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thursday’s early morning heavy rains certainly brought back memories from the deadly Halloween floods almost a year ago for people in Onion Creek. There were major concerns about the water levels, but it didn’t come close to the historic heights in 2013.
Onion Creek water levels only reached 21 feet unlike the 41 feet it reached last year. The US Geological Survey also recorded the water shot up 11 feet in just fifteen minutes along Onion Creek during the Halloween flood. The creek also flowed at 120,000 cubic feet per second that day, which is almost double the average flow rate of Niagara Falls.
“Just listening to the rain, it’s just really spooky,” said Glenda Jerome who had to rebuild her home after the floods. “Picturing my husband and I on top of the house and seeing all that water flowing different directions, what a nightmare, a total nightmare.”
She and her husband have lived in Onion Creek for 16 years and had to remodel their home after flood waters ruined their home. It’s a similar situation many of her neighbors had to go through as well. People didn’t know to leave their homes because they did not receive an automated message.
“Heaviest rain north of Onion Creek no flooding, expected city crews monitoring,” read Jerome from her cellphone. She received multiple text messages throughout the night from the city and from her neighborhood group.
“I was really surprised to hear that no one else got the ATX Flood text, I got mine at 4:30 pm,” explained Edward Reyes, President of the Dove Springs Neighborhood.
He put together an impromptu meeting Wednesday evening after he received that initial text and was able to round up 40 homeowners in less than an hour and half. He said he wanted to exchange as many numbers as possible so he could forward the messages he received from the city.
“It’s hit and miss,” said Reyes in regards to people receiving the electronic alerts. KXAN learned that someone at Austin’s Police Communications Command Center made a mistake and missed a step which kept hundreds of people from getting flood notifications.
Some residents relied on the weather radio’s the city gave to people in Onion Creek after last year’s flood.
“I put new batteries in it last night and there already almost dead now,” said Steven Shepherd who got an alert on his weather radio. “This radio isn’t going to last long even during a flood.”
It’s a concern Reyes, who is running for Austin City Council, is aware of. Several neighbors said the radio dies quickly, malfunctions and batteries explode. Reyes said he had planned on talking to the Watershed Department about it on Thursday, but the meeting was moved because of the weather.
In a Q&A the city’s Watershed Protection hosted in regards to the October 2013 floods, it did mention, “Please be aware that the batteries in the radios last only a short time. We recommend keeping the radios with fully charged batteries, plugged into a wall outlet at all times.”