Rebuilding after Memorial Day floods

The Memorial Day floods had a tremendous effect on communities in our area and the cleanup is still going on. While it’s been months since much of the area around the Blanco River was underwater, a look around and evidence of what the floods did can still be seen.

Even though recovery has been slow, those who lived through the devastation, like Lee Buse, say they’re slowly getting back to normal.

Pictures show the beauty of Buse’s backyard but all of it changed in an instant. On Memorial Day, before the heavy rain, Buse flew to Cabo. He was thinking of the paradise he was heading to and didn’t realize what would happen to the paradise he had been living in for the past 24 years.

Buse’s son and daughter-in-law, his friend Angela Neipp and several dogs were inside the house and were all in bed when things took a turn for the worse.

Water started filling the house and they knew they need to run.

“We started to get in the truck. It was locked on our side and then Bryan said, “run, run.” and I looked to see what he was looking at and there was an electric wire that was coming down where we were going to get in the truck,” Neipp says.

In the dark of the night the group headed to higher ground on foot and they weren’t the only ones. 

FOX 7's Casey Claiborne shared the story of a woman, eight months pregnant, and her husband who ran away barefoot from the flood waters. Neipp’s group ran into them and Neipp says she actually ended up giving away her shoes. 

Neipp says during their own six hour hike through the hills she fell into a ravine and believes she became unconscious. She says she woke up to her dogs nudging her to keep going.

Neipp says, “He's a river dog but he's also a great rescue dog. I don't know if he's ever rescued anyone, but he rescued me.”

After some yells for help a hand reached out. It was the pregnant couple who they had helped earlier. 

“I had given her my rain shoes and here I thought it was the end for me and it was her husband that pulled me out of the water,” Neipp says.

All of them survived the floods. It was something Lee Buse was relieved to hear. But when Buse came back to see the damage for himself he says it all seemed like a bad dream.

“I just couldn't believe the scale of the devastation,” Buse says, “In Angela's room there were logs that broke right in through the window.”

Buse says everything in his house was completely destroyed but the foundation still stood. He says that even though his belongings were gone something new came into his life. Support from several volunteer groups, including the Austin Disaster Relief Network.

Buse says, “…The hair stood up in my arms and I just started crying because of the overwhelming support and love of people that I didn't know and they didn't know me. It was incredible.”

Most of the cleanup is done and now that Buse has received money from FEMA he can continue the rebuilding process.

Buse expects to be back in his home in about six months from now. His neighbors are also working on their homes. It’s no longer a ghost town and now that people have gotten over the initial shock, they can start to rebuild and think about all they’ve gained instead of what they lost.

The Austin Relief Network says you can still help. It’s mainly looking for financial donations to their Memorial Weekend Flood Fund.

Many people are moving into the rebuilding phase and they need money to buy building materials. The organization is currently sponsoring some 900 families but will need skilled labor volunteers to help with their building.

You can get more information about volunteering or how you can donate here.