AUSTIN, Texas— Residents who were evacuated Friday from a southeast Austin neighborhood along Onion Creek will return home Saturday night. The neighborhood is part of a buyout program that some say has failed to get them out of harm’s way.
Residents were scheduled to return home early Saturday morning, but the reentry was delayed due to problems turning on the utilities. Before the barricades were moved, Abraham Perdomo and his pet Macaw Baby Blue provided a welcome distraction for all of those who have waited the past 24 hours to get back home.
"Yeah, we got out about 10:00 yesterday,” Perdomo said.
Police allowed people to drive in, and others, like Viviana Guerrero and her family, walked in. Once home, they found everything they stacked inside, still out of harm’s way. The sight provided relief but also tears.
"Ah yes, but just going through it again, the process it’s hard,” Guerrero said.
The flood water that swept through Friday was not as high as it was two years ago, but residents say it moved much faster. What didn't float away was soaked— like the shoes Amanda Pederez pulled from her closet. Across the street, Tito Melara and his parents returned to a house filled with mud.
"Yeah I came in and, oh man, I’ve got to clean this up again. Yeah, it’s devastating, Melera said, adding he didn’t lose as much as he expected, but some family members did. “I didn't, but more likely my dad, more likely did.”
The Melara's said they are on a list of people slated to leave. This neighborhood is targeted for an expanded city buyout program. While a lot have taken advantage of it, and have moved out, others are waiting for the process to wrap up. Yvette Griego says her buyout paperwork arrived back in the summer, but it hasn’t been finalized.
"Let’s just do it, everybody wants out of this neighborhood, just buy us out, and really and truly it should be a mandatory buyout. There shouldn't be anybody left here. It’s too dangerous,” Griego said.
Up until Friday, there were several people who wanted to stay. Lupe Escalante was one of those hold-outs. Now, as she and her family pull soggy furniture and other belongings out of their house, she's had a change of heart.
"Oh no, I’m not staying. We are not staying here anymore. This is it," Escalante said.
The concern now is, if the buyout continues to move slowly, some people will decide to rent out their property— rent it to individuals who have no idea what can happen in the Onion Creek area.