New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 9, 2011, New Braunfels, Texas
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One person, Norman Walker, 65, of Iowa Park, died.
His family's recreational vehicle in Hueco Springs, where they were camping, was swept up in rustling waters, killing Walker. His family members survived.
Fire Chief john Robinson said he remembers talking on the phone June 8, 2010, throughout the night with Steve Harris, New Braunfels emergency management coordinator. They had been monitoring the approaching storm and deciding what resources should be put where.
"We recognized early that morning it was going to be a major weather event," Robinson said. "I called (City Manager Michael) Morrison about 6 a.m. and said, 'This is the real thing.'"
Morrison, reminiscing from his home Wednesday, said, "Whenever your fire chief or your police chief calls you that early in the morning, it's not a good thing. We knew there was going to be some rain but we really didn't anticipate the deluge that came that day."
From then on, things got crazy.
Lance Botkin of Pearland was in town with family and friends as they always are this time of year. They were spending time at Heidelberg Lodges resort on N. Houston Avenue. Botkin said he heard the rains pounding his cabin and woke his then-pregnant wife.
Botkin said he told her he was a little nervous about the storm, then resort personnel knocked on the door and warned him the nearby river was going to crest.
Botkin said his wife was a bit skeptical.
"Then she looks out the back window and we saw a piano float by in the river," Botkin said, adding the family went to an upstairs room and watched the waters rise and recede.
Scott Gromacki, assistant manager at Gruene
River Co. on Gruene Road, said when he showed up for work about 7:45 a.m. June 9, 2010, the building was practically submerged and the street was filled with water. He saw buses floating away and then heard a woman screaming.
Firefighters arrived and rescuecfa woman from the second story of a building across the street, Gromacki said. Once the water receded, Gromacki said he saw Walker's body in the parking lot.
"You thank God more people didn't die," Gromacki said. "You're kind of in shock. Then you don't sleep for two days trying to recover. Then you
S?t busy and try not to ink about it."
Robinson said the rains fell and the damage was done in about 90 minutes, sending the Guadalupe River from about four feet to about 29 feet. He said when the water began receding, teams were formed to canvas the com-munity and assess the damage. City employees searched the rivers' banks, checking cars and marked them as having been searched, similar to the way search teams marked homes in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, Robinson said.
While crews were rescuing folks and searching for others, Morrison said, one family stuck in everyone's minds.
Morrison said a family of three — a man, woman and their daughter — had been swept away and separated in floodwaters. Calls came in sporadically as the girl was rescued, then her mother, Morrison remembered.
He said the man had not been found and rescuers, telephone operators and so many others could only breath a sigh of relief once they learned the man was found safe.
"The moment the word came in that the father had been rescued also, it was a moment I'll never forget," Morrison said. "When the word came that everybody in that family had been rescued, it was brief but it was a moment of great celebration for us."
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retired Iowa Dirk policeman Norman Walker, 65, a Camp Huaco Spring guest.
"He was camping only two or three trailers down from us," Debbie remembered. "I felt terrible."
Dad dodges death
R.J. floated the farthest — passing horrified onlookers as he hobbled up and down in the undulating currents. He remembers bits and pieces of his unique trip down the river, fighting off treetops and swells along the way.
He recalls hitching onto upside-down picnic tables, loose tubes, ice chests, even floating on a propane tank — which he quit kly discarded after fumes began seeping from the canister.
"Someone told me that I went through 14 bridges or dams. I remember going over a railroad bridge that had pillars of polished stone," he said. "That's when I really thought I was going to die.
"There were 20-foot waves that lasted about 100 yards. My feet would go down and by the time I'd get back to the surface, another wave would put me down."
He was approaching Zipp Road before Lake Dunlap resident Chuck Kirchof Fished him from the raging river. Kirchof had to maneuver his boat around eddies and debris to get to R.J., who by then was nruised, bloodied and shivering.
"He had his arm through one of those children's blue tubes," Kirchof said. "I got up to him and missed him, but I circled back around, reached down, grabbed his shorts and pulled! him in. He was beat up pretty bad."
R.J. had traveled nearly 30 miles over 5 1/2 hours.
"The New Braunfels fire chief (John Robinson) told me that a family getting lost in a flood the way we did had a 1 percent chance of surviving," R.J. recalled.
On YouTube, there's a brief video of Kirchof mooring his boat with an exhausted R.J. inside. He's yelling at folks to call 9-1-1. Ironically, Kirchof
and Kneuper have known each other since the first grade.
"He ended up pulling the daughter out of the river and I end up pulling R.J. out" he said. "It's a c oincidence, but it was kind of cool."
Kirchof, who grew up on the river, is a licensed captain. Both men insist there was a reason why he happened to be there that day.
"Not too many people would've rescued me like that," R.J. said, his voice cracking with emotion.
The Foresters are still sorting through a list of mental and physical ailments. But they'll never forget the kindness of area folks during their plight. They arrived home in Aledo, just west of Fort Worth, donning cuts and scrapes, but they were together — and alive.
R.J. was hospitalized briefly following nis ordeal, and nas since undergone two surgeries related to the incident. Debbie received an eight-inch gash on her leg, wnich has since healed. They've undergone counsel-ing through their local church — Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth — yet the post-traumatic stress is still there.
"My wife and I still can't sleep when it rains," R.j. said. "I've gone down to thank the people involved with the rescue, and the farthest south I've got was Round Rock. I just can't seem to get down there."
Sydpey doesn't remember much about the flood.
"She remembers being alone, scared and being in the dark, but she doesn't remember what kind of danger she was in," R.J. said.
"She was terrified while it was going on. But she's been back in the water; she's been swimming and everything," Debbie said.
The family's RV was destroyed and their 2003 Chevy truck, which probably saved their lives, was found weeks later. R.j. lost his wedding band, drills and tools when it sank.
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Ex-firefighter rescues firemen's daughter
Cathi Kneuper spotted something in a lifejacket floating past her home on Hillc rest Drive. She told her husliand Craig, a retired firefighter, it looked like a child.
Craig said he didn't think twice about going out to help. He yelled at Sydney, urging tier to keep swimming hard, and eventually she made her way closer to him. He grabbed the child and Ixifh of them swirled around in an eddy and were pinned near the back deck of the house.
Together, they fought off the debris. The1 water, still rising, splashed both of them cxi top of the deck. Frtxn start to finish, the rescue1 took only 15 minutes. Sydney had been in the water for nearly two hours.
"By the time I got in the water I knew I had to get her then," Kneuper said. "If she got out of the eddy, it would he going after her down by the (xxnmon Street bridge."
The Kneupers fed Sydney and helped get her cleaned up before she was reunited with her mother. They no longer live in that house on Hillcrest, which ironically was the only home on that street that survived the flood of 2002. If it hadn't been there June 9, the outcome might've been tragic.
"A lot of fortunate things
happened," said Kneuper, who keeps up with the Foresters on Facebook.
worn trapped w store
Debbie floated downstream, winding up at a business off Gruene Road. In the dark, she managed to grab onto a railing on the stairs and pull herself onto the porch. The rain kept coming and water kept rising, so she found a clay pot, threw it through one of the store doors and made her way in.
But the water kept coming. It rushed into tne store ana knocked her down, trapping her in a small whirlpool. She managed to float high enough where she was able to grab onto a high window ledge and pull herself up.
"I just kept seeing the water come up and up," she said. "I remember thinking about seeing rooftops of houses on TV and saying 'I can't believe it's going to end now.'"
After what seemed like hours, daylight dawned and the water began receding.
"It wasn't very long before I heard a fire truck, and a fireman came across to get me," she said.
She told her rescuers her other family members were missing. About then, one of the firemen noticed a lifeless man floating in the water.
"I asked if it was my husband," she said.
The body was that of
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