TX copes with flood losses

BY RACHEL CLARK | NEW BRAUNFELS, TX | July 17, 2002



"Those things will live on in little kids forever."

—Larry Phelps


In October 1998, Bobby Allen lost her home to a flood. She had five minutes to evacuate.

"The water went up to my ceiling. They [rescue officials] said get a change of clothing and your medications and leave, and so I just hopped in my car and left."

Allen had been told she didn't need flood insurance because she did not live in a flood plain.

"I lost my pictures, my wedding books, my baby books and my clothing."

This summer, Allen had half a day to remove some belongings before the waters of the Guadelupe entered her renovated -- and insured -- home.

"People have lost quite a bit," she said. "Last time, we could see houses floating down the river, just washed away."

Allen's relatively small community of about 35,000 is holding up well under the weight of washed out homes and impending renovation.

"We have been so dry and praying for rain," she said. "And now we've got it -- in spite of the muck and mud -- and things are in bloom and there is all of that beauty and that just reminds us of God's love."

Not everyone is dealing with the flooding as well as Allen.

Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Lura

Cayton witnessed the mood of Bandera, a nearby community, at a recent church and volunteer group meeting.

"They talked about how the river went up and down three times, and by the third time they talked about people walking around in a real daze not quite knowing what was going on," she said. "But they're beginning to get things cleaned up and FEMA is beginning to come out and do the inspections."

Some community members, including the local fire department, told Cayton that they just weren't prepared for this type of disaster.

"But that's another role that the church and faith community can play as they work at recovery. Part of the process is mitigation ... This is a key time because you've got the people who have experienced this disaster and if you wait even three to five years the population changes and people don't have the memory of the event."

As a CWS liaison, Cayton's job is to work with the faith community and help foster its participation in the recovery efforts of the people within their community.

"It's sitting down at the table with the people with the money and manpower and materials to do the case management and see that people get their needs met."

While not all of those needs have been identified just yet, Cayton said people have a "real resolve" to work those out in their communities.

"In this part of Texas, there are several interfaith groups that were formed following the flooding of 1998 and it's really good to see that those groups are kind of coming together to respond to the needs of the community."

One community-based group is Rebounds. This New Braunfels organization has repaired about 89 flood-damaged homes since opening in response to the 1998 flood.

Although designed to become operational after response groups like

FEMA and the American Red Cross have left the area, they've never stopped helping people put their homes back together.

"We were organized by several churches and individuals to help clients who did not have flood insurance or who received very little help from FEMA," said Larry Phelps, volunteer coordinator. "But because of our experience since the recovery of 1998, we've had over fifty agencies asking for our help and wanting to know what we need."

Phelps said residents are still in shock over the damage the flooding has done.

"People still do not understand," he said. "I know one family who had been flooded in 1998. Every time it sprinkles outside, their little girl just starts screaming. Those things will live on in little kids forever."

For Allen, however, her family, friends and community members have made all of the difference in getting her life back together.

"People are very good about coming and helping," she said. "Everyone's working hard. They're just falling into it and getting work done -- they're not sitting around."


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