Burnet County crews removed debris from a low-water crossing on CR 408 in Spicewood. Storms dumped several inches of rain in the Highland Lakes on May 23-24, resulting in a swift-water rescue on CR 413 on Cypress Creek. Staff photo by Connie Swinney
CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
SPICEWOOD — Emergency crews on May 23 rescued a woman and a family member trapped at the base of a tree after swift water swept the woman’s car down a rain-swollen Cypress Creek.
Storms dumped several inches of rain in the Highland Lakes on May 23-24, flooding creeks, streams and crossings across Burnet, Llano, Blanco and Hays counties.
The hardest-hit areas farther south and southeast of the Highland Lakes involved flooding on the Blanco River that swept away 350 homes and displaced 1,000 residents as well as left several thousand more without power, according to Pedernales Electric Cooperative.
In Burnet County, a swift-water rescue occurred about 10:30 p.m. on CR 413 off Spur 191 north of Texas 71 in Spicewood.
“The lady started to drive across (the low-water crossing), and she stalled out. One of her relatives came by at the same time. He got her out of the car, and then the water got too high for either one of them to get out,” said Patsy Lester, director of the Spicewood Area Volunteer EMS. “There was actually a big tree there, so they got behind that big cypress tree and they were able to stay there until (emergency personnel) got them out of there.”
During the initial rescue attempt, a Spicewood volunteer firefighter became entangled in fencing materials damaged by debris and was rescued by fellow firefighters, she said.
“We had another person in the water we had to get out,” she said. “He was actually hung there with his gear.”
Soon after the crew rescued their fellow responder, officials contacted Marble Falls Fire Rescue, which responded and rescued the pair by extending the ladder from a truck about 70 feet to the couple, according to Marble Falls Fire Chief Johnnie Caraway.
At the time of the rescue, the crossing had swelled about 8-9 feet, he said.
“They were able to spin the ladder out, rescue them into the bucket truck and, of course, got them to shore,” Caraway said.
The crews faced several challenges in rescuing the couple.
“From where we were sitting, we couldn’t see the crossing at all. It’s raining. It’s dark. There’s things in the water, you can’t see, a lot of trees and a power line,” he added. “When you have a situation like that, (the ladder) keeps the responders or rescuers from having to get into the water, which puts them in danger.”
Before and after the rescue, crews spent time barricading and monitoring several roadways across the Spicewood area, including CR 408 and 413 as well as those intersecting Cypress Creek.
“It was raining really heavy,” Lester said. “The creeks to get from our houses to the scene were bad enough, but that creek was just roaring.”
She asked motorists to exercise caution during flash flooding.
“For one thing, the lady said she hasn’t lived here that long and wasn’t expecting the water to be like that. She’s never seen the creek up like that,” said Lester of the driver.
“You can be dead in a few seconds because you can’t stop that water. You can stop fire, eventually, but you can’t stop water. It does whatever it wants to,” Lester added. “It’s like the old saying goes, ‘Turn around. Don’t drown.’”