The Memorial Day flood in Wimberley was one of the most talked about disasters of 2015, and it remains a day that the community doesn't want to forget. Members of the Wimberley City Library are putting the finishing touches on a book that is an oral history of those who lived through the flood and remained behind to pick up the pieces.
On May 25, Wimberley residents woke up to rain, lots of rain. It had been raining for several days. The Blanco River was a rushing torrent, overflowing its banks. People and property would soon be swept away.
The memories continue to stir painful emotions as Wimberley residents remember that day. City Librarian Carroll Wilson decided their stories should be preserved.
“We put out the word that we were interested in talking to people who had experienced the flood and we now have almost 100 interviews," Wilson says.
She has captured the stories of flood survivors on audio and is transcribing the recollections for a book. The details are both heart-wrenching and humorous.
Dody Spenser, 91, remembers standing in her second story loft as the flood waters reached her. She heard rescue crews on her roof.
“So this guy with the flashlight came up there and started knocking the window out, and so he got through the window and he said, 'Come on,' great big guy from San Antonio EMS and then he said, 'Come on,' and he pulled my hand and he just made me come to that window,” Spenser says.
The rescue team pulled her onto the roof and into a swift water boat that was waiting.
In his interview, Wimberley Fire Chief Carroll Czichos says he quickly knew this would be the worst flood the town had ever seen.
Czichos says it wasn’t long after that Wimberley had become an island surrounded by flood waters, making it difficult for state and neighboring rescue crews to deliver assistance. A total of nine people from Wimberley died.
Wimberly residents also remember some strangely funny moments. As flood waters filled their home Bill and Kathleen Cline escaped to the safety of their attic. They were wet and cold and willing to put on anything dry.
“We had been up there about two hours, and finally she said, wait a minute we’ve got some Christmas stuff so we had these Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus suits that we used to wear to scare our grandkids. And so we put those on, they were so warm, they even had the long johns with them, we weren’t even thinking about it, it was warm clothes."
When emergency crews reached the Clines they reported they had indeed just saved Santa and Ms. Claus.
Writer Carroll Wilson says sadly, not all of the stories have a happy ending.
“On the other end you’ve got the tragic deaths of so many people with one family and a remarkable story of a woman who lived on the Blanco with her husband and they got out of their house and they were holding on to the roof and he just drifted away and her attitude about it was, 'It was his time to go, but it was not time for me to go.'"
Wilson says Wimberley lost a lot that day but the book will also tell the stories of people who pulled together offering help and comfort to their neighbors.
Today the water line in Wimberley has receded and the river moves more slowly. Wilson says he hopes the collection of stories will help those still struggling with loss to heal.
"They read the stories, they understand they are not by themselves. That there is a whole lot of people out there who went through very similar things and are increasingly able to look back and say we made it through and we are probably better off for it in a certain way,” he says.
The book, “Wimberley, An Epic Flood Tests A Small Towns Strength” is expected to be released in the spring, just before the anniversary of the Memorial Day flooding.