Sat May 25, 2013
Storms Cause Massive Flooding, Evacuation in San Antonio Area
Storms rolled through San Antonio Saturday and dumped nearly 10 inches of rain, sparking house fires, flooding roads throughout the city, and stranding people in their vehicles and at parks.
San Antonio firefighters responded to nearly 250 water-related incidents. In one case, Chief Charles Hood said his crews were in the middle of rescuing a 60 year old woman when the strong currents grabbed her away from them.
"You can imagine how emotionally spent you are to try to rescue somebody, you're face to face with them and then you're washed, or they're washed away,” he said at a press conference Saturday afternoon at the Bexar County/San Antonio Emergency Operations Center. “So again, we're fortunate nobody was injured in that but we are doing a recovery."
Early Saturday morning, officials say a woman, possibly 29 or 30 years old, was swept away in her vehicle. Her car was pinned against a drainage culvert. She was found dead several hours later.
In just four hours, the National Weather Service said 10 inches of rain had fallen on the city. In Wilson County, southeast of San Antonio, officials told residents to evacuate. The order extended to residents living along the San Antonio River from Elmendorf to below Floresville in Wilson County. A shelter opened at 5:30 Saturday.
Officials said they expected the river to crest at 60 feet early Sunday morning. Flood stage is 35 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
“This is a life threatening situation,” said the notice to residents. “If you are in the area of the San Antonio River and have been flooded before, you will flood again,” the notice said.
San Antonio leaders urged people to stay inside because they expected more rain. They also pleaded for people to heed the warnings of barricaded streets.
“We have had too many folks who continue to ignore low water crossing warnings,” said Mayor Julian Castro at a Saturday afternoon press conference. “We’re asking folks not to go through low water crossings, not to go through the barricades, to please understand that even a little amount of water can cause you to get stuck on that road.”
Hood said water rescues are far more dangerous for firefighters than running into burning buildings.
Hood said at least eight boats had to be put into the rising flood waters Saturday. Fortunately, they were able to save a 60 year old man in Lockhill Selma after he became pinned against his vehicle.
"In a bunch of debris, with the water rushing up to him, we were able to put a ladder in and extricate him and save him,” said Hood.
Storms appeared to be clearing out of the area by Saturday night, but Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Trevino said even if San Antonio sees more rain, even a little will mean trouble.
"Any kind of water's going to be kind of like another flood event,” he said.
Officials responded to questions about flooding events in the future and how the city’s infrastructure can better handle large amounts of rain at one time.
Leaders said at least 40 low water crossings have been addressed in the past few years. But they said people continue to underestimate low water crossings and should be aware of the dangers.
Hood said a possible tornado formed in Live Oak, northeast of San Antonio. He said it was still being confirmed.
Meantime, crews would continue searching flooded areas. Hood said there is the possibility that as the flood waters recede, search teams may find additional victims.