Workers at The Natural Gardener were faced with the daunting job of shoveling, raking and moving massive amounts of granite, debris and muck.
By Ann Fowler
According to the records of the Southern Regional Headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the largest single day rainfall in Austin in the month of October was 7.39 inches in 1923. That record fell the night of October 12, 2013.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network shows three rain stations in Oak Hill that had rain totals ranging from 9.53 to 11.26 inches, most of it falling in a 10-hour period.
Most Oak Hillians suffered little more than sleep deprivation from the barrage of thunder and pounding rain during the night; but some businesses and residences suffered damage from overflowing creekbeds or insufficient water drainage.
The Oak Hill baseball and softball complex received approximately $100,000 in damage when Williamson Creek overflowed its banks. (See accompanying story.) Across U.S. 290 West, a restaurant also felt the wrath of the creek’s rushing waters.
Mike Dario, one of the managers of Austin Pizza Garden, said he arrived Sunday morning to find ankle deep water in the downstairs dining room, which warped the floor. The restaurant was closed for the day as employees did their best to remove the water and clean up. Wooden parking stops floated into a neighbor’s yard.
“We are open for business now,” Dario told the Gazette. “But we’re just seating upstairs.”
Farther down the creek, The Canine Center for Training and Behavior on Old Bee Caves Road, fared better than its neighbors. Owner Jane Del Re said this rain seemed no worse than normal. She said, “It is not so bad here in the sense that it is no worse than average. We have a problem with run-off from properties across the street, down across our property to the creek. We can’t keep topsoil, mulch or anything.”
Further up Old Bee Caves Road is The Natural Gardener. While it is not situated near a creek, it sustained major damage from runoff during the storm. General Manager Sharon Truett told the Gazette the rushing water eroded the grounds.
Truett said, “In our case, we are, unfortunately, situated at the bottom of a big hill. Above us, a huge apartment complex was built so a lot more runoff occurs now than in years past. Without all the vegetation at the top of the hill to slow it down, the water naturally moved down the hill at an even faster rate of speed.”
She described the damage: “Our paths and plant sections are covered with decomposed granite and the massive amount of water moving through displaced a whole bunch of that granite, making very deep rivulets and gullies throughout the whole nursery.”
With more rain due, employees have been unable to repair and refill the divots lest more rain undo their work. Closed since Sunday, Truett is hopeful that they will reopen by Friday if not Thursday afternoon. They are waiting to see what Mother Nature has in store.
Truett praised her staff for the hard work they’ve done this week. She said, “Faced with an incredibly daunting job of shoveling, raking and moving massive amounts of granite, debris and muck, they just donned their rubber boots and grungy clothes and got to work.” Doing her best Tony the Tiger imitation, Truett said, “They’re grrreat!”
Homes across Oak Hill also felt the effects of the record-setting rain.
Jean Grubb of Westcreek said four inches of water poured into her home during the storm. Her neighbors to either side were also flooded. The damage stems from water runoff. She said, “It is a constant battle to try and find a way to get the water to flow freely all the way down the street. This is the first time I’ve had water in the house.”
Grubb said she has spent thousands of dollars to remedy the drainage problem in both the front and back yards. Clearly those repairs have not worked. She said, “I have tried to get the city to allow a drainage system that would flow into the sewer lines, but have had no success on that front.” She promised to renew her fight in light of the flood damage to her home.
Mike Jasper of Scenic Brook said he found agony and ecstasy in the Saturday night storm. He said, “I was on the front porch enjoying the rain when it started.” But at 6 a.m. he said he felt like he was in a swamp as he felt a squish-squish-squish as he walked through the master bedroom.
He said he was lucky that only one room was affected, lucky that it was a wet carpet and not standing water, and luckier still that his computer and guitar escaped damage. The flooding in this case stemmed from rainwater runoff from a nearby hill.
Jasper has used a water vac to remove the water and will rent an industrial fan to dry it out. “If we don’t like what we see,” he said, “we’ll tear out the carpeting and go with concrete.” And he said they’d be looking into a better drainage system.
Paul Brown of Southview Estates escaped flood damage, but said Saturday night’s rain reminded him of monsoon season in Vietnam. He said, “At 7:00 a.m. I emptied my rain gauge. It had topped out at 8 inches.”
Brown said a dry creek bed below his property safely channels away water draining from local properties during storms. He said, “Under normal circumstances it is at best two feet wide. Looking at the matted down grass, it appears that at some point during the night it was close to 20 feet wide. The last time that happened was the Memorial Day floods, May 24-25, 1981, when it reached a width of approximately 45 feet.”
Laura Lancaster Faulk of G K Beckett Estates said she, too, suffered no flooding damage—save for her now blackened pool water, turned murky from all the mud that washed into it during the storm.
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