70ºF

Father of woman killed in Memorial Day floods testifies for better flood warnings

Texas putting $6.8 million into improving state's flood warning system

SEGUIN, Texas – Steve Schultz is the father of Laura McComb, who died along with her two children, Andrew, 6, and Leighton, 4, in the Memorial Day weekend floods near Wimberley. He recounted the day his daughter and grandchildren died in an emotional testimony to the Texas Water Development Board on Monday.

"It’s not like swimming in any normal water. It’s like swimming in a cement mixer,” Schultz said. "Once you end up in that river, it’s pretty hard to get out."

Schultz described how McComb was on the phone with her sister during the event.

"'Tell mom and dad I love them, and I'll miss them,'” he described. “Then the phone went dead."

The testimony was part of a meeting to determine how $6.8 million, transferred by Gov. Greg Abbott from the state’s Disaster Contingency Account, should be doled out in order to improve the state’s flood warning system.

"We need more automatic rain gages. We need more automatic river gages,” said Bill West, general manager of the Guadalupe Blanco Authority.

West, who also testified, told KSAT that a need for additional gages was a consensus among those at the meeting.

River gages can cost tens of thousands of dollars to install, plus thousands to maintain, which is why funding from Abbott is important if more gages are to be placed along Texas rivers.

"They are sophisticated equipment,” West said.

Still, data from those gages need to be sent out quicker, according to West, and they need to be moved above the latest historical flood lines in order to become "storm proof."

Experts also agreed on Monday that more efficient warnings were also needed.

"It was unfortunate that my daughter and all the people in that house had 361 area codes,” Schultz testified. “They weren't getting warnings."

Those who had 512 area codes did get urgent alerts during the storm.

On Sunday, May 24, the Blanco River rose nearly 20 feet in one hour, with the river cresting at 43 feet. It has been deemed the perfect storm by many, as those visiting for the Memorial Day weekend were caught off guard by the historic rains.


About the Author: