Nov. 01--As a second October deluge triggered a second round of flooding across Central Texas on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, helicopters and boats plucked people from flooded homes and residents hacked through their roofs to escape the rising water when storm-swollen creeks swallowed entire neighborhoods.
Emergency workers continued searching flooded areas Thursday, particularly in hard-hit Southeast Austin neighborhoods near Onion Creek, where more than 1,100 homes were evacuated. City officials didn't have an overall damage estimate or a tally of how many homes had flooded citywide.
The flooding was blamed for one death in Caldwell County; the body of a second victim was discovered in Onion Creek in Austin. In Comal County, officials were searching for a 26-year-old Canyon Lake man who reportedly fell into the swollen Guadalupe River around 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
The storms erupted around 9 p.m. Wednesday and quickly set new records: Onion Creek crested at a record high of 40 feet, and Austin recorded its wettest October since record-keeping began in 1856 -- the 13.28-inch monthly total at Camp Mabry broke the 1925 record of 12.63 inches.
As much as a foot of rain fell in parts of Central Texas -- too much for the already-saturated ground to absorb -- and sent it cascading into streets, creeks and homes through the night.
Travis County Emergency Medical Services Chief Ernesto Rodriguez said fast-moving flooding occurred at the worst time, when people were asleep, "so they had very little time to escape." The 911 calls from people needing to be rescued began around 11:30 p.m.; by Thursday afternoon, 300 people had asked for help getting out of their homes, Rodriguez said.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said city and emergency responders were still assessing the extent of the damage, but "I feel confident in saying there will be (flooding) records set with this particular event. These last few hours have been a grim reminder of why Central Texas is known as Flash Flood Alley."
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The flooding sent emergency workers and city officials scrambling across the region. Austin opened its Emergency Operations Center and later opened three shelters. In San Marcos and Williamson County, police and deputies went door-to-door to warn sleeping residents about the approaching flood.
At the height of the flooding, 8,500 Austin Energy customers were without power as winds knocked down power lines and substations flooded, said Austin Energy spokeswoman Leslie Sopko. By 8 p.m. Thursday, power had been restored to all but 100 homes and businesses. Nearly 3,000 Pedernales Electric Cooperative members were without power at noon Thursday, most of them near Manchaca, Kyle and Buda, the Johnson City-based nonprofit electric utility said. But by 8 p.m., power had been restored to all customers who lost power during the storms.
In Austin, the epicenter of flood damage was east of Interstate 35 and south of William Cannon Drive, where Onion Creek, swollen from a foot of rain that fell in parts of Hays County, surged into streets and homes and badly damaged sections of the Onion Creek Club golf course.
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At 8:10 a.m., an inflatable motor boat sped north on Bluff Springs Road, past a gazebo submerged nearly to its roof and toward a couple huddled on top of their car. A firefighter wrapped his arm around Vicki Hardin, 64, and helped her off. Her long, blue dress trailed behind her in the water.
Barefoot and clutching her purse, Hardin followed Jacques Poisot, 73, to dry land.