La Grange, Smithville residents return and find homes ruined
After evacuating in a hurry on Sunday, Francisco Obregon returned home Wednesday to see what was left.
Floodwaters had knocked over his refrigerator and washed his bedroom pillows down the hallway of his mobile home. A huge wooden shelf had fallen on his soaking wet bed.
“I have lost everything,” said Obregon, walking carefully with his high boots across a moldy floor that had caved in in two spots.
The Colorado Landing RV Park in La Grange was destroyed by the flooding of the nearby Colorado River, which crested Monday at 54.2 feet after the downpour from Harvey. About 500 homes were damaged in a town of 4,700 people.
On the south side of the river, Matthew Jaster and An’na Loehr were drying out their belongings in the driveway: a table, some chairs, a few blankets, and photographs of their children.
When the couple first saw the damage Tuesday night, Loehr said, “We broke down.”
The floodwaters over the weekend had nearly swallowed up the home they rent. The windows shattered. Half of their bedroom wall is missing. Their dresser washed away.
Fayette County Judge Ed Janecka, who told the couple Saturday to evacuate, stopped by Wednesday to apologize he wasn’t able to give them more time to pack.
“You can’t guess Mother Nature,” Jaster said.
About 20 miles upstream in Smithville, piles of soggy carpet lined Northeast Seventh Street, where about 30 volunteers began cleaning out homes that were drenched with floodwater.
A group from the Delhi Church in Rosanky began clearing furniture, tearing out carpets and baseboards and sweeping the floors. A large fan hummed rhythmically in the bedroom.
Tom Key, who has lived in the home 17 years, stood in the front yard Tuesday morning with work gloves on and recounted a list of the times his house has flooded in the past two years. Saturday made five.
After flooding in 2015 and 2016, Smithville applied for a federal grant to build a detention pond at the end of Northeast Seventh, near Marburger Street. Crews were halfway finished with the project when Harvey arrived. The 14-foot pond filled with water, but as rainfall totals climbed to 22 inches, there was nowhere else for it to go, City Manager Robert Tamble said.
Twenty homes on the street were flooded.
“I don’t care whether you have two detention ponds. I don’t think with this rain it would have made any difference,” Key said. “You can’t just keep raining, raining, raining and not flood somebody.”
The remnants of the storm remain obvious this week, with hoses still snaking down Marburger Street attached to pumps draining water from the pond. Garbage dumpsters line the street. A couple from Wimberley who flooded in the Memorial Day storm in 2015 arrived to help clean up, along with two women from Lexington, one of them a teacher in the Smithville district.
The Texas Baptist Men’s Group spearheaded volunteer efforts, with help from residents and church groups that reached out to the Smithville Chamber of Commerce. Key thanked the organizations for helping out.
“I don’t know what we would have done without them,” he said.
An’na Loehr and her husband, Matthew Jaster, begin trying to salvage their flooded home Wednesday in La Grange. The couple first discovered the damage Tuesday night. “We broke down,” Loehr said.