Bridging troubled water: Flood report not issued for Hays County

By Samantha Smith

Ten months after the 2015 Memorial Day flood that devastated parts of Hays County, officials still have not issued an After Action Report meant to show leaders where additional resources or funding needs to be applied. 

Hays County Communications Manager Laureen Chernow said the delay is due to the October flood following too closely on the heels of the May 2015 floods to give the county adequate time to recover enough to issue the report. 

According to Chernow, the formal writing process of the AAR is underway. When it will be issued to the public is still undetermined.

In addition to mapping out resources and funding, the report will also show where first responder training is needed before another weather disaster strikes.

When asked why smaller counties, such as Blanco and Caldwell Counties, issued their After Action Reports while Hays County remains empty handed, Chernow said those counties “were less affected than Hays County.” 

Chernow also said that even without the report, first responders and emergency personnel used knowledge gained from the Memorial Day flood to aid the community during the Oct. 30 flood. 

Several measures, such as the installation of river gauges along the Blanco River in Wimberley and the rebuilding of the Fischer Store Bridge, have taken place prior to the issuance of the report. 

In addition, SkyWarn classes taught by the National Weather Service throughout Hays County has gone to help citizens understand different weather aspects to be better prepared in the future. 

Chernow encourages citizens living along the Blanco River with debris piles to allow members of FEMA on to their property to remove them, in case of future imminent flood conditions. 

She also said residents and visitors alike can sign up for the Capital Area Coalition of Governments (CAPCOG) inclement weather alert system. 

“Our setup works well for Hays County and we recognize there is always room for improvement,” Chernow says. 

But for one Hays County resident, those measures may not be enough. 

Patricia Hohman, 69, who lives along State Highway 21 in San Marcos, said Hays County has a lot of work to do in regard to response times. 

Hohman claims that during the beginning stages of the Memorial Day flood, her family reached out to emergency responders in Hays County for help. 

“My son-in-law called 911 during the May flood to see if someone could help us get out, and they responded by saying they didn’t know anyone lived on our street,” Hohman said. 

She went on to say the county made Gary Job Corps aware of the flood danger and evacuated them, but failed to alert or evacuate the Hohmans, who live right across SH 21 from Gary Job Corp. 

Hohman said the water level rose quicker than she and her family had anticipated, forcing them to climb atop their two vehicles with the hope of being rescued. 

According to Hohman, they waited three hours for the water to go down, waving at passing rescue helicopters during that time, unable to get assistance. 

When the water finally receded enough for them to escape, rescue volunteers in kayaks came by to help, but were not able to give the Hohmans any information about where they could be evacuated to. 

Hohman agreed with Chernow on the improved response from Hays County officials during the October flood. 

She said the same kayak team came to warn them when they needed to evacuate much sooner than the May flood, but they still didn’t know where to direct them for evacuation. 

“As far as we are concerned there was really no rescue effort during the Memorial Day flood,” Hohman said. “They told my son-in-law they didn’t even know we existed.”

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