EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
When Marble Falls police officer Aaron Garcia knocked on the Jones’s door Oct. 16 at their home on Pecan Drive to advise them that they needed to evacuate because of rising floodwaters, the Jones thought for a bit about taking their dogs.
“We were going to evacuate, but, you know, we’ve been through floods here before, and we thought it would never cross the road,” said Jennifer Jones.
As they left, Jennifer and her husband, Kyle, along with their kids took the dogs with them. When the family returned to their home in the Pecan Valley area of Marble Falls after the waters receded, they saw the extent of the devastation, not only on their home of 11 years but up and down the street.
“The water went up about three feet in our house, and then there was the mud, about two inches of mud,” Jennifer Jones said.
Across the road, where her husband’s parents live, the water went even higher, and about 6 inches of mud covered the floors.
Almost a week after the flood, on Oct. 24, the water was gone but so much of the devastation remained. As she looked through the house where all of the drywall had been removed from just above the flood level on down, Jones felt almost grateful — not for the flood but for the friends and people who came out, donned boots, grabbed tools, and helped them clean the mud, muck, and everything else in the house.
“We were lucky,” she said. “We have a lot of friends who came and helped us out.”
Everything that was in their house is either stacked alongside the driveway or tossed in a big pile for removal.
One of the things that sticks out to Jones was the quick response from the churches and community. Almost as quickly as the floodwaters receded, area churches such as First Baptist of Marble Falls, First Baptist of Kingsland, First United Methodist of Marble Falls, and many more began organizing help — whether serving as a point for volunteers to go out on crews or taking in supplies and water for distribution.
“The Baptist church in town was incredible the way they had things organized and had people out helping all around here and other places with cleaning up,” Jones said. “Even though we had a lot of friends helping, they had a crew come by and help us out as well. I don’t know how they did it, but I think our governments should take a look at it and learn from them.”
Some people just showed up in flooded areas looking to help.
Along Pecan Drive, as mud-out crews and residents pulled out flood-damaged and destroyed items as well as drywall, insulation, and other things, the trash began piling up in front of homes, in driveways, and along the street.
Then, Allen Davis showed up with his tractor complete with a front-end loader. Nobody called him or asked him to come. Jones said he just arrived one day soon after the flood with the tractor and went to work.
“He is a hero,” Jones said.
People just called him the “Tractor Guy” as he would clean up space around homes, take the trash to the nearby property owners’ association park, and sort it until dumpsters arrived. The city crews eventually relieved him Oct. 24, but Jones and others praised Davis as really making a difference those first several days of cleanup.
Up and down the flood-damaged Highland Lakes, people came out to help. By Oct. 29, a lot of the homes had been mudded out, partly because of a big turnout — as many as 500 people — over the weekend.
Kevin Naumann of the Marble Falls Area EMS, who has been helping coordinate recovery efforts and acting as a liaison among churches, Burnet County, and cities, said, as of Oct. 29, much of the emphasis had begun to shift to longterm recovery.
There are still some homes requiring cleanup, but the number was far fewer — as low as 20 in the Burnet County area.
“Probably our biggest need now is financial contributions,” Naumann said. “Most of the homes have been mudded out already, so it’s really about helping people without insurance or who don’t have enough insurance.”
Organizers have set up the Burnet County Flood Victim Relief Fund through the Highland Lakes Legacy Fund to assist those who have experienced flood loss and/or damage in Burnet County, which includes Marble Falls and the surrounding area. Donations can be made at burnetfloodrelief.kimbia.com/donate or by mail at Burnet County Flood Victim Relief Fund c/o The Community Resource Center, 1016 Broadway, Marble Falls, TX 78654.
In Llano County, monetary donations can be dropped off or mailed to the Llano Chamber of Commerce, 100 Train Station Drive, Llano, TX 78643, or made online at llanochamber.org.
Homeowners and residents in Llano County affected by the flood can resister their damage and assistance needs through the Volunteer Reception Center, 3435 RR 1431 in Kingsland. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Or, they can email the center at email@example.com.
Since the flood, volunteers have jumped at the chance to help. Many returning several times over the course of days to assist.
“That’s been the most incredible piece of this entire thing: the volunteers,” Naumann said. “It’s been people from everywhere — San Antonio, Austin, right here in the community. People just show up and say, ‘I’m here to help. That’s been amazing.”
As for Jones, the future is very much on her mind.
Her family has insurance, but the house sits on the precipice of if it is damaged to the point they would have to tear it down and rebuild a new home or rebuild their current home.
If they have to tear down the current home and rebuild from the ground up, Jones said they probably won’t be able to afford it because new rules would require them to “build up” or elevate the house off the ground. When the house was built, there wasn’t such a requirement, but, apparently, changes to the floodplain regulations would require this on a new house.
“Even with insurance, we can’t afford to rebuild like they would make us,” she said. “And we have insurance. I can’t imagine what people without insurance are facing.”
Besides rebuilding — whether that’s the current house or a new one — the Joneses are trying to manage temporary living arrangements for their family, which includes eight kids. With an uncertainty about federal relief funds or other financial support, the Joneses can’t afford renting a house while they determine the future of their situation and pay the mortgage on their Pecan Drive home. A steady group of friends let the family stay with them, but it means some kids staying one home and the rest staying at other homes.
With all that weighing down on them, one would think the Joneses would find little to smile about, let alone laugh. As they were still cleaning up a little more than a week after the flood, they joked and laughed, teased, and yes, sometimes cried.
After almost seven days of cleaning up their home, along with a cadre of friends, the Joneses ordered a mandatory rest day on Oct. 25.
“We tell our friends to just take the day off, or ‘you don’t have to come today,’ but they do, so we decided to just take Thursday off, all of us,” Jennifer Jones said.
They also need to turn on fans to help dry out the house.
On the next day, however, it was back to work. But not at their house.
“We’ve decided to go and volunteer to help others clean their house,” Jones said. “If we can help someone else like we’ve been helped, then we’re going to do that.”