Rough Weekend in Northfield

by Sebastian Wren

Every Memorial Day, we think about the horrible flood of 1981 that claimed 13 lives and caused over 35 million dollars of damage.  The weather was not very predictable at the time, and the warning systems were not up to the task of alerting people to the sudden downpour that would cause so much chaos and tragedy.


Whole Foods in 1981
Back when Whole Foods only had one store at 10th and Lamar, it flooded several times — 1981 was the worst, though.

Hopefully we will never have another tragedy like the 1981 floods, but the 2015 Memorial Day Weekend has been pretty awful.

On Saturday we were hit with straight-line winds that gusted up to 75 miles per hour. The winds were so strong, people thought it must have been a tornado.  Trees were uprooted, branches flew through the air, shingles were ripped off of roofs.  Almost everybody experienced some damage to their trees, homes, and cars.

That was Saturday.  By Memorial Day Monday, just as people were starting to clean up from the wind damage, it started to rain,

….And rain,

……….And rain.

Parlor Pizza
Wind Damage: The Parlor in Hyde Park
Intramural Fields
Wind Damage: One of the light towers on the U.T. Intramural Fields came crashing down on 51st Street. Workers cleared the street the next day, but the overhead wires were still a mess when this picture was taken.
The wind picked up bleachers from the Intramural Fields and slammed them into homes across the street.  Photo by Kaitlin Ingram
The wind picked up bleachers from the Intramural Fields and slammed them into homes across the street. Photo by Kaitlin Ingram
Chesterfield Tree
The wind storm really only lasted a few minutes, but in that time, dozens of trees were knocked over all over the neighborhood. Some people were very lucky that the trees didn’t cause much damage when they fell.
Franklin Tree
Other people were not as lucky. Damage to property was extensive.
Franklin Tree
Trees everywhere in the neighborhood took out fences and damaged houses.
2015-05-24 08.14.04
That’s a VW under that very large tree.
Link Tree
Even when the trees didn’t break, a water-logged ground was not able to keep the trees from falling.
55th Street
The way the trees were twisted made a lot of people think that they must have been hit by a tornado, but the culprit was straight-line winds that were clocked over 70 miles per hour (comparable to a small hurricane).
Nelray Tree
Branches mixed with shingles and flying debris, creating a huge mess all over the neighborhood.
Nelray Sycamore
The huge sycamore on Nelray flew about 30 feet before hitting the ground.
Chesterfield Fence
Flying branches took out fences and damaged property. Along Chesterfield, much of this debris (including this fence) was picked up by the flood and carried downstream to cause even more damage.
Flooding on North Loop
On Monday, the epic (ahem.. sorry about that) downpour turned Waller Creek into a raging river.
Patio view
The view from the patio at Epoch Coffee was downright shocking.
Brush Piles
Much of the brush and debris that had been collected from Saturday’s wind-storm ended up washing downstream in Monday’s flood.
Chesterfield and Nelray
Chesterfield and Nelray were under water for hours.
Apartment Flooding
The apartments along Waller Creek were especially vulnerable. At one point, the dumpster from the apartment complex ended up washing into the creek.
As soon as the rain stopped, the water receded. Within minutes, the aftermath of the flooding was visible.
Cars parked along Chesterfield were caught in the flood.
Cars parked along Chesterfield were caught in the flood.  Photo by Jeremy May
Damaged Car
The branches and fences and debris from the wind-storm that had been piled up next to the street on Sunday ended up floating downstream on Monday. The water is very dangerous, but the debris carried by the water can be deadly.
Snapping turtle
When the flood waters receded some displaced wildlife was trying to find their way back home. Photo by Jeremy May
The clouds after the rain were quite impressive, too. Photo by Jeremy May
Just a few minutes after the rain stopped, the flood-waters receded, and everybody came out to see how bad the damage was. Nobody was hurt, but a lot of people lost a lot of property. Downstream, central Austin was hit hard. When all was said and done, we had to count ourselves lucky and be grateful that it wasn’t worse.

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