More than 1,100 Onion Creek homes evacuated

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on October 31, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 31 at 6:42 PM

AUSTIN -- Amid the roaring waters of Onion Creek came calls for help.

"The water's up to the door coming into the yard," a wheelchair-bound resident of the nearby neighborhood frantically told 9-1-1 dispatchers early Thursday morning. A result of heavy overnight rains, a raging river rushed where the creek had trickled just hours before.

"We need help help, ma'am," another called pleaded with dispatchers. "We're stranded on the roof. There's water, the water keeps rising."

Photographs from the neighborhood near William Cannon Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road show cars underwater. Houses would soon follow, with residents forced to the rooftops by rapidly rising water levels.

"This is worse than I've ever seen it," said longtime neighborhood resident Chuck Moseley.

By morning, rescue crews had delivered more than a hundred to safety, with at least another hundred rescues to go. Airlifted after abandoning his truck in waste deep waters, Moseley arrived at an impromptu staging area occupied by dozens of emergency units.

"They said 'there's another one!' And they come over and grabbed me and yanked me off in that Zodiak," said Moseley. "They weren't too gentle about it, but they ain't got time to be gentle."

Onion Creek and the nearby neighborhoods were cordoned off early Thursday morning, with the intersection at William Cannon and Pleasant Valley turning into a gathering place for those pulled from the floodwaters. Many stood barefoot and wrapped in blankets provided by emergency workers as they awaited friends and family arriving to pick them up.

"I got caught in the current, I got stranded on the truck. I helped some people get onto the roof and stayed on the roof from like six till now," said Johnpaul Aleman. Rescued by boat, Aleman nervously awaited news of his children who'd been staying with a neighbor.

For many, family is all that's left.

"It's like a Katrina incident," said Aleman. "We don't have nothing."

"No good. We lost everything," said Esther Vasquez, who waited for more than four hours on her rooftop before boats arrived to rescue her family. "They just got the kids first and came back for us."

"Water came out of nowhere," said Alex Lucio, who fled in his heavy Chevy Suburban. "By the time I get to the stop sign, the water went to my door knob. So that's it, we all got flooded out."

According to the Austin Fire Department, more than 1,100 homes along Onion Creek were evacuated by late Thursday afternoon. Advised not to attempt to return, many evacuees told KVUE they planned to spend the night with friends or family members.

Yet even in the chaotic staging area, a handful of youngsters dressed in Halloween costumes lent a slight hint of normalcy. Some reunited families used the holiday to parry the shock and loss of the morning's events.

"I walked in said, 'Happy Halloween kids!'" recounted Moseley. "'You got any more scares that you need to deal with?' And they were laughing. You know, trying to ease the kids' mind a bit."

Residents will not be allowed to return to their homes until their respective neighborhoods are deemed safe. The following neighborhoods have been impacted: 

Neighborhood: Onion Creek Subdivision
Primary street: Pinehurst
Homes evacuated: 216
 
Neighborhood: Onion Creek Forrest, and a portion of Silverstone
Primary streets: Springville Ln., Vinehill Dr., Quicksilver
Homes evacuated: 723
 
Neighborhood: Onion Creek Plantation

Primary street: Dixie St.
Homes evacuated: 185

Residents looking for information regarding evacuated neighborhoods should call 3-1-1. To view specific residential areas that have been evacuated, please visit www.atxfloods.com.

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