Wet weather has Memorial Day flood survivors on edge

34 years ago, one of the worst floods in Austin's history devastated homes along Shoal and Walnut Creeks.

That night 10 inches of rain fell on Austin in just four hours.

"All the houses were totally up to the ceiling filled with water," said Pat Fatter-Black who has lived next to Shoal Creek since 1972.

The water wrecked dozens of homes and caused $36 million in damage.

"This was one of the main sites of the worst part of the Memorial Day floods," said Black pointing to the 4000 block of Jefferson Street.

People in their cars were swept away with the current.

"There were lots of folks that lost their lives that night," said Black.

13 people died in the flood and more than a dozen homes were ruined.

"Oh it was just chaos. I mean there were houses here," said Black pointing to an empty grassy area.

After the flood, the City of Austin bought out and tore down 15 homes on Jefferson Street. They also spent millions to build a safer Shoal Creek.

"They've channeled it out and done a lot of work to make it a little less life threatening, but I mean if it's a huge downpour that comes all at once it could happen again," said Black.

Still, every Memorial Day, Black is reminded of that horrific night.

"Just yesterday I was thinking, 'Oh, this is the Memorial Day flood anniversary,'" said Black.

Although the neighborhood looks very different now, this year the Spring rain is like a reflection of 1981.

"Especially when it's like it is now and it's been raining for days, I used to get really nervous and go, 'What's wrong?' And then I'd say, 'Oh, it's the Memorial Day flood.' Because it just rained and rained and rained," said Black.

Black said time will never wash away the images from one of the most devastating floods in Austin.

"Certainly the worst that I had ever seen, I had never been in a flood," said Black.

Because of the Memorial Day flood the City of Austin created an Emergency Operations Center to help coordinate with authorities when natural disasters strike.

Staff there said with thousands of visitors in the area for Memorial Day weekend and rain in the forecast they are preparing for anything.

"We've made contact with stakeholders in the city and put them on notice. We've also identified several personnel on our staff that can come into the EOC should it activate," said Angel Flores, spokesperson for the Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

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