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Flood stories, song showcased at club meeting

  • Weather expert Austin Thomas (left) and singer-songwriter Lee Winright came to Medina’s Faith and Freedom Club to share their knowledge of the 1978 flood.
    Weather expert Austin Thomas (left) and singer-songwriter Lee Winright came to Medina’s Faith and Freedom Club to share their knowledge of the 1978 flood.

Medina’s Faith and Freedom Club met at the Rodney Camp Pavilion to hear from Austin Thomas and Lee Winright about the historic 1978 flood. Club leader Vicki Shroyer reported that their flood stories will be added to the Medina Community Book.

Thomas began with an analysis of the meteorological conditions that caused the be so devastating to the Medina community. He explained the reference to a “100-year flood” is just a statistic used by insurance companies to calculate risk, but he also asserted the county could see another destructive flood if the conditions become right.

He spoke about the effect that the 1978 drought on the conditions that caused the flood. He explained the concepts of drainage basin and runoff percentage and detailed how these factors made the event worse. Because of the hard dry ground, 95 percent of the rain that fell on Bandera County that July became runoff.

Flash floods are common in areas with a dry climate and rocky terrain like Bandera County. Compared to slow rising river floods in other areas of Texas, flash floods are particular to the area. The town of Albany near Abilene also experienced historic flooding caused by this same tropical system.

Tropical Storm Amelia was the immediate cause of the flooding in Medina, although other factors certainly played a part. Amelia started out as a tropical disturbance and was not even classified as a tropical storm until it made landfall just north of Brownsville. As the high-pressure system over Central Texas moved east, the low-pressure area generated by Amelia slipped into that space and dropped nearly 48 inches of rain in 52 hours on the Medina area.

The low-pressure zone literally sucked moisture from the Gulf of Mexico during this three-day rain event.

“A lot of rain fell in a relatively small area,” commented Thomas.

During the flooding in 1978, Thomas said “springs that never flowed began to flow.” Proximity to the moisture supplied by the Gulf made the flooding worse.

Thomas said the low amount of riverbank vegetation and high walls of the river added to the fast flow of the runoff. He added damage caused by these floods could have lasting effects on the river itself.

The topsoil that was torn away by flood waters would take thousands of years to replace through routine geologic processes. He remarked this loss could have a huge effect on bank stabilization.

Thomas said that it was “important to be good stewards of the land and to mitigate the effects of this catastrophic flooding through better managing river vegetation.”

Local singer-songwriter Lee Winright took over the second part of the program. He played his composition, “Flood Song,” which was released in 2020 as a single and details his experiences during the flood.

Winright related to the audience his family’s two mobile homes on the banks of the Medina were destroyed by the flood waters as he watched from the site of the present-day Cedar Creek Nursing Home. His uncle’s laminated Social Security card was the only thing recovered from the devastation of his family’s homes.

“Flood Song” documents in a melancholy Texas country ballad the historic events of the 1978 flood and its devastating aftereffects. The Faith and Freedom audience clearly enjoyed his musical tribute to local history as he sang for the group. Winright’s easy going accessible style made this song especially meaningful to the audience. Winright will play in Bandera at Bricks’ River Café on Friday, April 22, at 6 p.m.