UTSA researchers release report on 2015 Wimberley floods

Memorial Day weekend floods killed 13 people, destroyed 350 homes

By Justin Horne - Weather Authority Meteorologist/Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - A new study hopes to shed more light on the catastrophic flood in Wimberley on Memorial Day weekend 2015. 

The Blanco River rose to a record 40 feet during the flood, claiming 13 lives and destroying 350 homes. 

Chad Furl, a postdoctoral research associate, and Hatim Sharif, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio, applied for a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the flood. 

While floods are common in South Texas, the study found some unique features with the storm that Memorial Day weekend.  

Sharif said the movement of rainfall was important. 

"This particular storm was moving from upstream to downstream," he said. "It was following the flood wave, so it was adding more water to the flood wave."

The flood wave would end up overwhelming numerous structures and an entire bridge. 

According to Sharif, it's important to learn from the event, as there will likely be more of them.  

The researchers also called for better storm preparations when it comes to blocking roads and evacuating citizens. 

"A better understanding of the behavior of the rivers and its response to the storm would have helped," Sharif said.  

Since the storm, data, technology and modeling have improved, possibly increasing the warning time for the next major event. But the researchers believe more can be done. 

"We need to do better for our citizens," Sharif said. "We can use innovation and insight to prevent more tragedies. It's absolutely within our grasp."

He also pointed to urbanization and topography as large contributing factors to the flood.  

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