Wimberley residents relive night of Memorial Day weekend floods

Wimberley residents share emotional survival stories during historic flooding

By Adrian Garcia - Digital Journalist, RJ Marquez - Digital Content Curator

WIMBERLEY, Texas - Less than an hour is all it took for the Blanco River in Wimberley to rise from below flood stage to major flood stage, and destroy the lives of so many people in the small Texas Hill Country community.

Heavy rain began to fall in the region on May 23, 2015 and continued through the night into the early morning hours of May 24.

The flood waters were high enough that they filled Ralph Logan’s two-story home in a matter of minutes.

Logan, a sixth-generation Hays County resident, lived less than 10 miles away from the Fischer Store Bridge, which collapsed due to the powerful surge of water.

“When the front doors burst open, I thought someone had broken into my home (and) it sounded like someone had driven a monster truck into my living room,” Logan said. “As I stood at the top of the stairs trying to figure it all out, in a matter of seconds I saw pieces of furniture floating past the bottom of the stairwell.”

It was then he knew there was only one option in order to survive. Logan rushed into his son’s bedroom, grabbed a baseball bat, smashed the front window and jumped onto the roof.

“When I got out on the roof, the smell was the first thing that hit me,” Logan said. “I could just see the top of the tree off the corner of the roof and that’s how I gauged the height of the water and I knew that I would have to jump in.”

Logan, like many other Wimberley residents, could not believe how powerful the water surge was.

“When you stretch out 40 feet high across a quarter of a mile, that’s a lot of water and a lot of power. I believe it was running at about 80,000 cubic feet per second which is monstrous,” Logan said.

(Data below courtesy of National Weather Service.)

According to U.S. Geological Survey, the flow of the Blanco River in Wimberley peaked at 175,000 cubic feet per second with an estimated height of 44.9 feet.

(Video below is an example of 150,815 cubic feet per second in comparison to Blanco River’s 170,000 cubic feet per second during the Memorial Day weekend flood.)

The National Weather Service reported the Blanco River rose five feet every 15 minutes from 10:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m.

At 1 a.m., the last observed value recorded before the river gauges malfunctioned was at 40.21 feet, 30 feet over the flood stage and 7.73 feet over the record flood stage that was set in 1929.

For Steve Meeks, owner of Rio Bonito Resort, it was a natural disaster he never expected to happen in his hometown.

“I have specific landmarks that I know about how high the water is, and I can tell by judging the water in the river. We were told probably around 9:30 p.m. and so at 9 o’ clock we started to alert everybody that there will be a flood coming through,” Meek said when discussing the flood warnings.

“And 9:30 came and there was still no water. I’m talking to our friends and I’m saying, ‘There’s something not right here.’ By 10:30 p.m., it was still not there and by 11:30, I was thinking something has happened.”

Families staying at the 70-year-old 7A Resort in Wimberley were awakened by maintenance manager Kevin Calaway as he rushed to gather everyone staying in the cabins closest to the Blanco River.

“I ran into each one of (the cabins) as the water was hitting them (and) that’s probably the scariest moment because it was vibrating you knew it was getting ready to go away,” Calaway said.  “And then also hearing the sound of the river was tremendous (with) the trees breaking.”

A day after the record-setting flood, Gov. Greg Abbott surveyed the damage left behind and later signed a state disaster declaration that added 24 counties to the list bringing the total to 37 counties at the time.

This year’s Memorial Day weekend in Wimberley will not only serve as a reminder of those who have died while in service of the armed forces, but also a time to relive the night 11 lives were lost and hundreds of homes were destroyed by the flooding.

Logan said the flooding disaster has brought the community together.

“Sense of community, friendship and the embrace of the entire community for those affected by the flood and for those that were not affected by the flood still continues,” Logan said. “We said it after the flood and even before the October flood, there’s nothing that can drag us away from it.”

Timeline below of the Wimberley flood victims:

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