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2016-06-02

If it’s Memorial weekend, there’s sure to be flooding

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

For the second consecutive year, tourists and locals, who flocked to Bandera for fun and frolic over Memorial Day weekend, instead found themselves facing power outages, evacuations, downed trees, cleanups and more water than they probably ever want to see again.
Heavy rains, accompanied by violent wind gusts and frequent lightning strikes, started the night of Saturday, May 28, and continued into the next day, putting the skids on most activities.
Additionally, the nearly 10 inches of rain – as reported by the Bandera County River Authority & Groundwater District that fell from May 25 through May 31 – completely destroyed the office of the Bandera Bulletin, collapsing the newspaper’s roof and blowing out a huge glass window.
Flooding in the city began at approximately 12:45 am the morning of Sunday May 30, and city residents lost all electrical power about 30 minutes later, according to City Marshal Will Dietrich.
However, as the storms continued, power outages were reported across the county. Later on Sunday, Brian Brockel, manager of strategic products and services for Bandera Electric Cooperative, noted: “Many members have been without power for more than 30 hours. We understand your frustrations and empathize with you.”
Brockel explained, “Main lines must be restored prior to individual outages. Flood conditions have limited crew access to damaged equipment. This is a significant event and we are waiting for mutual aid crews to arrive and assist.”
Although Brockel expected power restoration to take several days, all outages from the weekend storms were fixed by the night of Monday, May 30.
Although the Medina River overflowed its banks, it did not top the bridge on Highway 173 South. On Sunday, May 29, the river was flowing at 30,000 feet per second.
As a local noted, “The Medina River wasn’t the issue; it was all the surrounding creeks.” People expressed concern that barricades placed on the city side of Bandera Creek weren’t set back sufficiently. Many thought barricades should have been placed at the crest of the hill because “… when Bandera Creek rises and Doe Creek feeds into it, the water rushes over the highway and washes away cars parked along the road.” This was, unfortunately, what happened over the weekend – destroying several trucks and travel trailers.
“That water coming off the hill can lift stuff right off the road, and drivers don’t see the danger until it’s too late,” one local posted on Facebook.
Horseback riders, who had planned to participate in the Bandera Regulars Memorial Day Trail Ride, along with their livestock, trucks and trailers were evacuated from Bandera City Park. The evacuation also included some 30 RVs and approximately 75 to 100 people from two campgrounds within the city.
Reports indicated that four trailers had been washed downstream and a dozen motorcycles were lost at an RV park. Others were damaged severely. And, although volunteer firefighters and officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety participated in several swift water rescues, no fatalities were reported.
According to Dietrich, due to extensive damage, Bandera City Park will be closed for the near future – ending an important revenue stream for the municipality.
As of press time, rain was expected to last until Friday, June 3. Bandera County Commission-ers Court will convene an emergency meeting as soon as possible to evaluate flood damage.
“I feel somewhat vindicated that I insisted on keeping a large fund balance for emergencies like this one,” said Judge Richard Evans.