Victoria braces for flooding; many lack power, water
VICTORIA — After deciding not to evacuate their 93-yearold home in the Old Victoria neighborhood as Hurricane Harvey approached, Tom Dooling and his family spent Friday doing everything they could to prepare: boarding up windows, bringing in outdoor plants and furniture, filling the bathtub with fresh water, packing up important documents and making sure the flashlights were ready to go.
But about 4 a.m. Saturday, after his family had gone to bed and the power had failed, Dooling was up listening to the storm intensify and wishing that they had left town.
“Given choices, I wouldn’t have gone through that again. It was nasty,” said Dooling, a retired firefighter. “The scariest thing to me was when the wind would start picking up. You didn’t know if it was a twister or just a gust.”
In the end, the Doolings, like many others who ignored the mandatory evacuation notice for Victoria, woke Saturday morning to relatively minor damage: two broken fences and a mess in the yard, in their case.
Although Victoria, a city of 63,000, appeared to be directly in Harvey’s path before dawn Saturday, there were no reported fatalities or severe injuries as of late Saturday afternoon, said Bryan Simons, a spokesman for the Victoria County sheriff ’s office.
But emergency workers aren’t celebrating yet. Severe flooding is expected to hit the city during the next few days as Harvey, now a tropical storm, continues to dump immense amounts of rain while lingering over the Coastal Bend area.
“It’s going to come back around and go right over us,” Simons said.
By noon Saturday, 11 inches had already fallen on the city, Simons said. As rain runoff filled creeks and tributaries while making its way downstream, officials projected the Guadalupe River, which runs through Victoria, would crest Monday or Tuesday at about 32 feet, which is only 2 feet short of the record set in 1998. Flood stage is 21 feet, which the river had surpassed by Friday evening.
“The rivers are already coming up,” Simons said. “This is going to be a very dire situation.”
The storm has already left about 24,000 area res- idents without power and disrupted the city of Victoria’s water service. For whatever water residents are able to squeeze out of their pipes, officials have issued a boil-water notice in case it is contaminated.
Downed trees damaged many houses, and high winds ripped the roofs off of some less substantial structures, including garages. But no buildings in and around the city center appeared to be leveled Saturday, when steady rain and strong gusts of wind were still pummelling the city.
Many residents who chose to stay cited their good fortune in weathering Hurricane Claudette in 2003, the most recent to hit the region head-on.
“We may have procrastinated because of our experience,” said Ember Dooling, Tom’s wife, said.
“This was way, way worse,” he said.
The Blanco River Recovery Team, formed after the 2015 floods, is still assisting families affected by those floods while getting ready for the effects of Harvey.
More than 1,000 families have been assisted in Hays, Blanco, Guadalupe and Caldwell counties so far, the group said.
The team “is here permanently, ready to assist, but funds are stretched, and any and all donations are appreciated,” Hays County Emergency Management Coordinator Kharley Smith said.
Anyone who wishes to donate can visit www.br3t. org to give a tax-deductible donation.
As a result of Hurricane Harvey, the average price for unleaded gasoline in Texas has jumped up 3 cents since Tuesday, to $2.16 per gallon, a AAA auto club spokesman said Saturday.
For the latest gas price information for Texas and across the United States, go online to gasprices.aaa.com.
Ember and Tom Dooling boarded up their 93-year-old home in the Old Victoria neighborhood and rode out the storm. “Given choices, I wouldn’t have gone through that again. It was nasty,” said Dooling, a retired firefighter.