SPECIAL REPORT: Weathering the storm

Fall and Spring may be some of the prettiest times in Central Texas, but when it comes to wet weather they are also the most deadly.

Retired piano player Susie Osio has been living along Heartwood Drive for the last 35 years.

"I've been flooded so many times, I don't want to get flooded again, anymore, I'm so tired of it," said Osio.

The view from Osio's backyard cost her many sleepless nights. Osio's home is one of dozens that sit within the Williamson Creek 25-year flood plain.

"If it's really coming up at night I start turning all the lights on, trying to see how far it's coming and I can't go to sleep, I won't go to sleep because if water comes up I need to get out," said Osio.

In 1998 Osio's home filled up with more than four feet of water. Because of the damage she was forced to throw away most of her belongings.

"My bed, my mattresses, my clothes, shoes, everything in '98, that's what happened to us in '98, we lost a lot," said Osio.

Since then Osio has had to drop her flood insurance because she simply can't afford it. And with home prices constantly rising in Austin, she can't move out without a little help.

"If I knew that my house was going to go through floods I wouldn't have bought it," said Osio.

Michael Kurko lives just three doors down from Osio. He moved in after the flood in 1998, but when the creek overflowed again in 2013, his home took a direct hit.

"It looked like our house was in the middle of a river because there was water rushing around the sides of it," said Kurko.

Since then Kurko has shared the same fear Osio has been living with.

"Every time a heavy rain comes we're up all night and we're just balls of stress," said Kurko.

Weeks after the Williamson Creek area flooded in 2013, floods wrecked dozens of homes in the Onion Creek area. The City of Austin, Travis County and the Army Corps of Engineers stepped up to buy out properties in the Onion Creek 25-year flood plain. That buyout agreement was finalized in August of 2014.

Williamson Creek residents were told they would be next. They are still waiting.

"How long will it take them to get over to Williamson Creek?" asked Osio.

"I would definitely like to be, have this wrapped up before the Fall because that's the next time you start biting your nails and feeling that the storms are going to start rolling in," said Kurko.

FOX 7 contacted the Watershed Protection Department about the Williamson Creek buyout plan, but they said they couldn't comment until a proposal has been finalized.

Emails with City Council members report a similar experience. Amy Smith, policy advisor for Councilwoman Leslie Pool, writes, "We were hoping to hear additional information from Watershed other than there has been no conclusion on the buyout offer."

Austin Mayor Steve Adler assures us help is on the way.

"I thoroughly expect both the proposal, the recommendations coming from the city and the larger policy questions about buyout to happen this month," said Adler.

Adler said he realized there were so many different parts to the buyout proposals; it would be easier and faster for city council to come up with an overarching policy.

"At the same time we need to move deliberately and an extra week or two to be able to really nail this question I think is reasonable," said Adler.

The Mayor knows prolonging the buyout could be a gamble.

"I'm worried however long there are people that are living in these areas that are not only in the flood plain, but are areas where the velocity is so great… So I am concerned and that's why this is a priority and we need to move quickly," said Adler.

For those who live on the riverbank, the clock ran out.

"It's already too long. It's already been too long so I'm just hoping and praying that they have enough money to buy it," said Osio.

Osio, Kurko and their neighbors may not be the last people in Austin who find themselves in a hazardous area.

"Austin is perhaps the most flash flood prone area in the country and we have some parts of our town where we developed before the risks were known and they're in danger," said Adler.

"I think my fear is that this is a problem far from going away. That over the years, as there's more development in Austin and as weather patterns start to change, more and more neighborhoods will come into harms way," said Kurko.

Kurko and Osio said leaving the neighborhood will be bittersweet, but they hope the prescription for their insomnia is a new zip code where they won't always be waiting, wondering what's headed downstream.

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