State to improve flood warning systems

When it comes to a major flooding event, a warning system can be a lifeline. That's why the state is discussing how to spend $6.8 million on improvements.

The Texas Water Development Board heard from nearly a dozen flood experts. Some of the best advice came from relatives of the Wimberley flood victims.

Two devastating floods hit Central Texas this year: one in May and the other in October. Both events resulted in several tragic deaths.

"It's not like swimming in any normal water. It's like swimming in a cement mixer with all the aggregate, the trees and everything else that's in there. Once you end up in that river, it's pretty hard to get out," says Steve Schultz, father of Laura McComb.

In order to better prepare for future events, the Texas Water Development Board held a meeting Monday.
First to speak was Steve Schultz, who recalled the loss of his daughter Laura McComb and two grandchildren, Andrew and Leighton, during the Wimberley flood.

"It was unfortunate that my daughter, and all the people in that house, had 361 area codes. They weren't getting warnings; they didn't have warnings. No TV, so they didn't see anything on TV or anything. The house was sitting on stilts, about 8 feet in the air. By the time they noticed the water toward the first floor, they had 8 foot of depth of water, in which they couldn't get out," says Schultz.

It was on November 5th when Governor Greg Abbott determined that an emergency exists in flood notification systems and floodplain management planning in Texas.

As a result, $6.8 million in emergency funding was given to the Texas Water Development Board to manage the appropriations.

"We're talking about gauges that are going to be able to tell both emergency management personnel and members of the general public, what conditions look like. If people are monitoring those conditions, they'll be able to know what's going on with flash flooding for example," says Bech Bruun, Texas Water Development Board, chairman.

Another improvement is taking data and turning it into modeling information. For instance, looking at rainfall upstream and figuring out what it would look like as water levels downstream.

"Comal County also came along back in the 2000's and we've established sirens all along the river. For those old enough in the room to recognize the Cold War in the 50's and the 60's, we had those sirens then and we used to have to go under our desk and hide until the siren went off. Well this is the same thing, only the signage and the signaling is telling you to evacuate and go to higher ground," says Schultz.

Schultz says if some of that was along the river now, it could have possibly saved his family.

The Texas Water Development Board says they will set a plan on how to appropriate the money within the next month or two.
 

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