Lewisville was drenched Friday night into Saturday morning, accumulating about seven inches of rain in less than 24 hours. A flash flood in the early morning tore through a neighborhood of mobile homes leading to an early morning rescue call for the fire department, and leaving behind destruction and mess.
The close-knit neighborhood of about 30 mobile homes on Oak Tree Lane, just off Holford’s Prairie Road, is used to rising water from the creek that passes through their neighborhood, just beyond the entrance.
Midway Branch, a 2.8 mile-long tributary of the Elm Fork, will routinely overflow its banks and run over the only road in or out of the neighborhood during heavy rain events.
But early Saturday morning, residents said, was more flooding than they had ever seen.
Lewisville Fire Department was dispatched to the neighborhood at 3:01 a.m. to assist any residents who wanted to get out. When first responders initially arrived, Holford’s Prairie Road was too flooded for them to get through. Police closed the road, which radio traffic indicated responders thought had eight feet of water running across it.
It was nearly 4 a.m. before the water would recede enough to allow rescuers to get close.
Fire Chief Tim Tittle said that it was common in heavy rain events for his department to assist the residents. He said that Carrollton Fire Department’s swift water rescue team assisted with evacuations Saturday morning, and that the departments had been able to get some families out, but that others wanted to stay.
“We had Red Cross lined up to help those that needed it,” Tittle said.
Saturday afternoon when rains stopped for awhile, residents were outside checking on each other and comparing notes about the flooding and damage.
Storage sheds were swept away. A garage with a car in it had partially collapsed, its wall blown out.
A travel trailer had been pushed off its parking pad, and knocked over a boat that had been on a trailer. A car had been pushed into a yard by rushing waters, and needed to be towed away.
Fences were knocked over and twisted from the force of several feet of rushing water. Debris was everywhere.
Randy Neal’s mobile home is the first house west of the creek. Neal had eight inches of water inside his house at the height of the flood. Saturday afternoon, his floor was covered with a thin, soupy layer of mud. The personal belongings of a houseguest sat soaked on the floor.
“The only thing you can do is get everything up off the floor and take a water hose and wash it out,” Neal said.
Neal, who has lived in his home for 23 years, said it was the third time for him to have his home flooded inside. “Last night was the worst I’ve seen it in 22 or 23 years,” Neal said.
When it flooded in 2016, there was 14 inches of water in his home, but that was before he raised it. After the last flood, he raised the floor by about 20 inches.
It wasn’t the only flood Neal dealt with this weekend. A commercial property manager, he had received a call from a tenant Friday night that their office was flooding, and he was away from home dealing with that when he came back to discover the flooding at his home.
Neal figures he’s probably going to have to replace the floors. He said it cost about $5,000 the last time he had to make those repairs.
“Shortly after I bought this property, somebody contacted me and said ‘oh, you’re in a floodplain,’” Neal said. “It wasn’t in a floodplain when I bought it — it turned into one.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency maps show that the entire neighborhood is in a Zone A floodplain. Historical maps show that some parts of the neighborhood have been a flood zone since at least 1988, though boundaries have shifted some over the years.
Neal said he’s not able to get flood insurance. “Every time something like this happens, I have to pull money out of my pocket,” he said. “I don’t make a lot of money, so sometimes it takes a while.”
For now, Neal said he might stay with one of his two sons, who both live in the area.
Across the street, a few houses down, live Geneva and Larry Don Stephens. According to Geneva Stephens, water was about 5 inches high inside her house.
“We’ve been out here 20 years this year, and we have never had the water come in the house,” she said. “It’s been up to our top steps on the porch, but it’s never come into the house until this year.”
Geneva Stephens said that when they first moved to the neighborhood, nobody told them that it was a floodplain. “There was nothing in the paperwork about it,” she said.
Stephens and her husband Larry Don are both disabled, and he has been hospitalized multiple times this year. On intravenous antibiotics, and fighting pneumonia, Larry Don Stephens uses two canes to walk.
The choice between healthcare or flood insurance was easy, Geneva Stephens said. The Stephens do not have flood insurance.
Larry Don Stephens had been up since 3 a.m. during the flood and afterward trying to clean up the mess in the house.
The plan for the Stephens was that family members were going to come over and help clean up so that they could stay there Saturday night. The carpet needed to come out, and they were planning to use shop vacs and fans to get the house dry.
Evacuation was not in Larry Don Stephens’ plans Saturday morning.
“A fireman came by and said ‘y’all need to get out?’ and I said ‘where do I go?’”
Stephens said the firefighter told him he’d take him up to the mailbox – higher ground at the end of the street, the other side of the creek.
“Where do I go from there?” Stephens asked.
Chief Tittle said the fire department would have worked with Red Cross to get them placed somewhere if they had needed it.
Tittle said his advice to those who live right next to the creek is that if they want to live there, they should have a plan for those types of situations and get out before it gets that bad.
Larry Don Stephens said his neighbors were calling him at 4 a.m. to check on him.
“We’ve been like a family for over 20 years down here,” Stephens said. “You just don’t find that everywhere, you know?”
The Stephens said that most of the people in the neighborhood know each other by first name, and that many are family.
As Larry Don Stephens quietly surveyed the damage, other neighbors could be heard working on cars, and trying to prevent further water damage.
“You’re gonna need to let that sit for a day or two and dry out — I took the battery out,” one resident shouted to another he was helping.
Another resident was busy checking out his catering truck, which had been flooded. Two of his vehicles were flooded, and the waters had pushed aside a new trampoline that he’d just put in his yard. The water got close, but didn’t quite make it inside his house.
Jorge, who didn’t give his last name, said he had evacuated the neighborhood before the flooding when he got a flash flood alert on his phone. He waited out the flood with his family in his car outside of the neighborhood.
Krystal Springer lives in a new mobile home on a lot that had been raised up before the home was brought in. Her car was parked down the street during the flood, but still got some water in the floorboards. The water did not make it into her house.
Springer, who recalled playing in the creek as a youngster, fishing for crawdads, is used to the creek rising with the rains. “It’s been like this for well over 30 years,” Springer said, recalling her grandmother being one of the first to move in the neighborhood.
“It’s never, ever gotten this bad,” Springer’s mother, Sheryl Fine, said.
Springer and others explained that ownership is a big deal in her neighborhood. Unlike other mobile home communities in the city, Oak Tree Estates lots are individually owned, with many or most residents owning instead of renting.
Even with the flooding, she said leaving was not an option for her.
“This is our home,” Springer said.
Like the others, Springer also described the neighborhood as close-knit, and said it was a great place to grow up. “We really don’t have to worry about any strangers coming down the road, as far as the kids,” she said.
“Here, there’s always someone outside watching over the kids.”
Springer said she felt very safe in the neighborhood. “We all look out for each other out here.”
“This disaster, it’s something big and we’re gonna have to come together and help each other out.”
Many of the residents expressed opinions about what may be causing the flooding, or making it worse. We are researching the issue. Stay tuned to The Lewisville Texan Journal for a future story about situation.
Update: 9/23/2018, 12:30 p.m.:
Lauren Neal, the daughter of the Stephens mentioned in the story provided the following statement: “…I do want to clarify that red cross knew nothing of the situation until almost 4 p.m. yesterday. And when my sister, nieces and nephews were taken out of harms way due to the flood waters, [the fire department] just dropped them on the other side of the road and left them to fend for themselves. They had no one there to help with rides or places to go, obviously they couldn’t get their cars out.
“The fire fighters told my father Larry Don that they would give my sister a ride to her friends house in bunker hill. Which they did not.”
The Lewisville Texan Journal has reached out to Lewisville fire and emergency management to give them a chance to respond. We’ll update this post if they do.
Update: 2:30 p.m.:
There is a gofundme fundraiser for the residents to help repair homes:
Chief Tim Tittle said that he had spoken to Assistant Chief Mark McNeil and Battalion Chief Chris Sweet, who were both on duty Saturday morning when the evacuation took place. Tittle said that the two had talked to everyone in the neighborhood, offering assistance to move them out of the water and Red Cross assistance to anyone who needed it. “My guys did everything they could to try to offer assistance and help anybody that they could and make sure that it appeared everybody was good before they left.”
Lewisville Emergency Manager Thomas Quinn said he had been in contact with residents of the neighborhood, and had worked out a debris pickup with Waste Management on Friday so that residents would not have to haul things like wet carpet to the landfill. He said that the typical restrictions for bulk waste would be relaxed for now, and that trucks with grapples might be out next week to pick up remaining large items.
Early morning rains of two inches had waters in Oak Tree Estates rising again over the road, according to residents, who said the water did not re-enter homes. The water had gone back down by the time The Lewisville Texan Journal could get a photographer on scene.
Stay tuned for a followup article soon examining causes and remedies.