Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Flooding leaves damage, road closures across the county

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Last weekend, extreme flooding caused by heavy rainfall and an overflowing Leon River affected several communities across Coryell County.

Resident Tim Gallaway said the flood water stopped only a few feet away from his home in Mound.

“I know the homes down below me, and on the street over from me, some of them flooded,” Gallaway said.

Before the flooding reached its peak on May 4 and May 5, Gallaway set out to help his neighbors save their property and animals, including moving three trailer loads of cattle.

“We moved cattle out of the river bottom the morning before it came in,” Gallaway said. “We also moved some tractors and some equipment – we still got some stuff parked up around my house.”

With his house built on higher ground, Gallaway said his home was saved from the water, but the road in front of his house was submerged.

“They did have the barricades up above my house closer to the Mound, because the water was all the way out in front of my house,” he said. 

Gallaway has lived in Mound since 1981. He said the last time he witnessed this amount of flooding in the area was in 2007 and 1991.

“I've seen three of these floods and, so far, I haven't gotten any (water) in my house on any of them,” he said.

Like Gallaway, many homeowners across the county experienced high flood waters creep toward their homes and properties.

Coryell County Sheriff Scott Williams said he has lived within the Coryell County area for most of his life and recalls the flooding in 1991, 2007, and 2018 as comparable to the recent floods.  

“I have been out since Sunday and have surveyed a large portion of the county,” Williams said. “I have seen damage from debris and water in yards to complete devastation. This is a pretty sad situation, but nothing Coryell County cannot get past and recover from.”

Williams said the southwest area of Coryell County seemed to be the most affected, but there are areas of damage across the county.

“Right now, we are in pretty good shape, but staying vigilant,” Williams said.  “The river is down right now, but there is a possibility of more water. We will continue to monitor conditions across the county.”

Rescues and evacuations

Gatesville Fire Chief Billy Vaden said the fire department responded to approximately 17 calls for assistance during the peak of the floods. The department received their first call at around 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, and their last call at 3:16 p.m. on Sunday, May 5.

“I have seen that much water in Gatesville before, but never that much in such a short period of time,” Vaden said.

Vaden adds that they had assistance from Fort Cavazos, a Texas Task Force crew with two boats, Texas Game Wardens, and several county fire departments. The Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) also sent a helicopter out to Pidcoke to assist in evacuations, but it was only used to conduct an aerial search of the area, Vaden said.

Spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, Heather Ashley, said there were five known official swift water rescues that occurred on May 5.

According to the Gatesville Police Department, six homes were evacuated on East Leon Street in Gatesville.

No deaths were reported due to the flooding.

“As hectic as things were, the dispatchers, both the police department and sheriff’s office, did a great job in keeping us on track,” Vaden said. “All in all, everyone did their job, and we prevented no injuries and, more important, no loss of life.”

Closures

On Sunday, the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office announced that more than 40 roads were closed due to high flood waters or damage.

Most county and Farm-to-Market roads reopened earlier in the week. The sheriff’s office announced in a social media post on Wednesday that barricades on West Highway 84 at Cow House Creek were removed, and on Friday that the FM 116 bridge and Cow House Creek Bridge at Pidcoke are now open for traffic.

As of press time, Faunt Le Roy Park is still closed to the public.

With rain still forecast for next week, local first responders and law enforcement warn about the dangers of driving across water on roadways.

“One problem I saw was in the night - it was hard to see the water over the road, and that’s why many people drove off too deep before they realized what was happening,” Vaden said.

The sheriff’s office reminds drivers not to cross any barricades by vehicle or on foot while crews work on damaged roads.   

“Please give these workers a wide berth to work and maneuver their equipment,” Williams said. “Every time a motorist attempts to drive into the area the workers have to stop and address the driver. This will slow down their work.”

Flood Recovery

In the aftermath of major flood events, TDEM urges residents to report business and personal property damage to ISTAT found at https://damage.tdem.texas.gov/ and to select “Spring Severe Weather and Flooding Event.”

TDEM spokesperson Wes Rapaport said in an email that submitting this damage survey helps officials determine eligibility for various forms of disaster assistance.

“The information provided in the self-reported damage assessment surveys also aids officials in connecting impacted Texans with available resources to assist with the disaster recovery process,” Rapaport said.

For city residents who need to drop off any brush or tree limbs that were damaged during the recent flooding, City of Gatesville Secretary Wendy Cole said the brush drop-off site at the end of N. 19th Street will be open on Saturday, May 18, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The utility building will also be open this Saturday, May 11 and Saturday, May 18, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. to take any non-hazardous bulk from residents. Cole said this service is only offered to City of Gatesville residents who will be required to provide a driver’s license and a recent city water bill. The utility building is located at 106 S. 23rd Street.

Contractors are not allowed to drop off debris at either site, Cole adds.