Travis County crews implement changes ahead of rain

Max Varela is living in an RV outside his flood-damaged home.

TRAVIS COUNTY (KXAN) — Max Varela is living in an RV parked in front of his flood-damaged home. He is only one of the flood survivors who have either chosen to or been forced by circumstance to stay on their properties in the Thoroughbred Farms neighborhood in Travis County despite severe damage.

Last month’s flooding killed 67-year-old Inez Garza in that area, forced families to their rooftops and destroyed homes. A day before Thanksgiving, rain was in the forecast again.

“Man, where to start, it’s a lot of hurt,” said Varela. “Most of us don’t have any place to go. I know families still living in their house that, you know, gutted them out.”

Alert never sent for site of deadly flood

Varela says he did not receive notice of how bad the flooding would be. A previous KXAN Investigation found the Travis County never ordered a regional notice to the area to evacuate. The fire chief in the area suggested issuing such a warning could send more people onto roads and into danger.

“I hope we don’t get it like last time,” said Varela.

Varela and others who are still in the neighborhood are living in structures less sturdy than the homes they escaped from last time. Varela is in an RV. Homes have also sustained damage.

Travis County Fire Rescue Chief Ken Bailey outlined several areas he wanted to improve after the last flood. One included taking a new look at potential road flooding in order to map the spots water cuts off in extreme floods.
“We’re looking at identifying area that we know we’re going to get cut off from and being able to, based on historical data, put resources or pre-deploy resources in area where we don’t have the islands where these people are waiting and they’re not getting any help,” said Bailey.

Bailey says the county has already outlined areas to stage if flooding has the potential to cut off neighborhoods near Dry Creek. Officials are still working on a similar analysis for Onion Creek.

Bailey says he will continue watching the forecasted weather to make decisions about how to responded. He says crews will make Thoroughbred Farms a priority and that they are aware some people are still living on flood-damaged properties.

Varela hopes response to future floods will be quicker and that he’ll get a warning of potential flood. However, based on his previous experience he plans to watch the creek and weather reports himself to know when its time to leave.

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