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Texas community grateful for help after ‘500-year flood’ ravages area

The annual rainfall in Marble Falls, a city in the Texas Hill Country about 45 miles northwest of Austin, Texas, is nearly 30 inches per year. In 24 hours beginning the morning of June 26, nearly 20 inches fell. Five feet of water, the result of a powerful flash flood, swept through this city of 7,200 with enough force to wash cars, trucks and mobile homes downstream. “My husband kept saying, ‘Is it ever going to quit raining?’” said Marble Falls church member Tabitha Long.
After discovering water in their family room’s carpet shortly after midnight, they fought the driving wind and rising water for several hours. Later the next morning, they discovered that three vans belonging to their pest-control business had filled with water. One was upside down in the creek.
The Longs were one of 20 families at the church whose home or business were damaged by what meteorologists are calling a 500-year flood, which means there is a .2 percent chance of such a flood occurring in any year.
The wall of churning water from overflowing creeks and rivers buried roads and neighborhoods and damaged the city’s infrastructure in this popular vacation destination, which is home to spring-fed pools, granite mountains and other attractions.
For church member Dolly Montgomery, her 8-year-old granddaughter D’Laine, and their pet dog, Sarita, the experience was a nightmare.
“I still feel sort of lost, like I’m walking around in a dream or a fog,” Montgomery said.
Anticipating a flood from the nearby swollen creek, they left the house about 2 a.m. and drove to higher ground on their property. All three dozed off in the car. Two hours later, they awakened to find water streaming into their vehicle, and they again drove to safety.
At dawn, receding floodwaters revealed their home had been ravaged by 50 inches of water that left almost as quickly as it came.
A Marble Falls resident since 1985, the retired schoolteacher and her husband built their home nine years ago using stones and materials they gathered locally. “It was a real labor of love, and a dream come true,” said Montgomery.
The family had flood insurance, and friends and family members pitched in to help them clean up the debris within four days and get the site ready for rebuilding.
“We are okay, and people have been so good to help us,” said Montgomery. “This whole event just reminds me that material things are not the important thing.”
Burnet County, where Marble Falls is located, experienced $139 million worth of damage and was declared a federal disaster relief area on July 10.
“This should enable some people to get federal funds,” said church secretary Ann George.
Meanwhile, a church relief team headed by deacon Jim Moore has helped mobilize the church’s efforts to assist members and people in the community. Youth minister Jimmy Mitchell and teens spent several days tearing out carpets and cleaning up debris for flood victims.
Elder Terry Johnson said the needs of church members affected by the flood have taxed the resources of the Marble Falls church, which earlier contributed $10,000 to Asian tsunami victims and $60,000 to Katrina relief. The church, which has an attendance of 300-350 on Sundays, has established a Flood Relief Fund and has received several inquiries from churches wishing to help.
“While some of our members had flood insurance, it only covers structure, not the contents. The deductibles and exclusionary clauses of these policies still leave a sizeable amount not covered by insurance,” said Johnson.
Despite the challenges, Johnson said the experience has been a time of spiritual growth for the members and an opportunity to “practice our Christianity.”
“This kind of experience really pulls you together as a church family,” said Moore. “You begin to realize there’s more to a church than worshipping in the building. It’s the hand you extend to those in need.”
July 17, 2007

Filed under: National

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