One reporter’s account of coping

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 13, 2000

Grandpa Frank didn’t want to sell me the house because it had flooded in 1993.

Thursday, July 13, 2000

Grandpa Frank didn’t want to sell me the house because it had flooded in 1993.

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"It’s too much trouble," he said his straightforward way. "It’s a pain in the ass. You don’t want that house."

But I did want it.

I loved it for the memories of childhood vacations there, for the knowledge that it was the closest thing we had to a family homestead, for the memory of my mother and because it is in a beautiful location. It is – there’s not a doubt in my mind – one of the most beautiful properties in Austin: an acre of land within the city that feels like the country, with Turtle Creek winding its way around the edge and trees all over.

I thought his fears of another flood were exaggerated.


We got it worse on Monday – probably another three feet on top of what he got in 1993.

It filled the basement with a sound like three bathtubs running over and crept up to within inches of the first floor.

The quiet, once the basement had filled to the water level, was almost more disturbing than the noise of the water that the sandbags weren’t stopping from running into the basement.

"You have your own indoor swimming pool," my cousin Skyler told me as we looked through the door in the kitchen down into the murky mess, where there was a cookie tin and and a nipple for a baby bottle floating on top.

Still, if it hadn’t flooded I probably wouldn’t have discovered the two kittens in the garage.

I threw open the garage door looking for what, I don’t know, and there they sat, on a pile of hay, one blinking in the sudden light, the other not blinking because its eyes were matted shut. They scrambled away and into a corner of the garage, and I put them in the back of my mind.

A couple hours later, when the flood waters started threatening the garage, my cousin Lydia and I did a search and rescue.

It wasn’t the first rescue of the day, but it was the most successful. The toad I’d put in the wheelbarrow earlier had disappeared, probably into the floodwaters, and I’d only gotten about half the stuff out of the basement before the water got too high and everything got too wet.

It wasn’t that we hadn’t been warned. The police came at 5 a.m. to announce that Turtle Creek was at the flood warning stage for the third time since May.

It felt like the story of the boy who cried wolf, so I went back to bed and Brady went to work. Neither of us was too concerned.

Even though the yard has flooded several times over the past couple years, the most we’d ever gotten was a couple inches in the basement.

And then there was Monday.

The police, the gas man and the guys in the electrical truck from Austin Utilities kept us sane with news from the outside world. Dr. Laura – all four hours of her on KAUS radio that afternoon – nearly did the opposite.

Here we were, desperate for news about the biggest flood to hit Austin maybe ever, and we get Dr. Laura. I think she may have been the reason we finally gave up and left, wading out through the thigh-high water, grabbing the dog dish floating by on the way out.

It’s four days later now, and, while we enjoyed the swimming at the Americinn, we can’t continue to stay there.

Today we move in with Franny’s babysitter and her husband, who have offered to look after us too. I hope they won’t regret taking us under their wing – we may be there awhile.

Even after getting a huge pump from Rent-n-Save, there’s still water on the floor of the basement and lots of cleaning to do.

Besides, the utility-guys said they wouldn’t turn the electricity back on until everything is dry and the electrical system is approved. I don’t even want to think about the well water.

At least I know why our plans to visit Florida during my vacation next week never materialized – we’ll be plenty busy here.

I think the helpful hints from the Extension office below this story might be worthy of the fridge, at least for the next week.