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Devastating Floods Alter Lives In A Texas Mobile Home Park


Thunderstorms continue to pelt parts of Texas. People there are struggling to recover from flooding that began over the Memorial Day weekend. Twenty-four people have died; about a dozen still haven't been found. We spoke with several folks who live in a mobile home park in San Marcos, Texas, along the interstate between Austin and San Antonio. Melissa Ornelas is a car salesperson who has made her home in that mobile home park for 10 years.

MELISSA ORNELAS: I'm staring at what I call Lake Ornelas, which is right outside my house, so it's still got probably four or five inches of standing water.

SIMON: Can you stay in your house now?

ORNELAS: No, absolutely not. It is unlivable conditions. And if anybody is staying in their houses that were in this flood, they need to be wearing a mask 24-7. I mean, this river water is some nasty stuff.

SIMON: Yeah.

ORNELAS: It's not rainwater, it's river water. It's the Blanco River that had, you know - that traveled from Wimberley to here and gathered up all its yuck and landed in our - in my house. I probably had two inches of river mud in my house on the floor, wall to wall, bedroom to bedroom.

SIMON: People in San Marcos remember the last flood that struck on Halloween 2013. Steven Hernandez has lived in the mobile home park for three years. He looks after his son and daughter, who are 2 and 6. His wife is a teacher.

Your children and your wife and you - you're all right?

STEVEN HERNANDEZ: Yes, yes. Unlike the Halloween flood in 2013, the city really stepped up and they sent out a whole bunch of police on megaphones and their sirens blaring telling people it's time to go, and so we went.

SIMON: His mobile home wasn't as badly damaged as many others and his family has moved back in, but they have months of extensive, expensive repairs ahead and no insurance.

HERNANDEZ: All of this is going to be out of our pocket. Though, I must say we've had some really, really good friends step up and help us out financially.


HERNANDEZ: And a lot of our friends coming out, saying, hey, just tell us what you need and it's done and even complete strangers offering help.

SIMON: Well, those are good friends indeed. May I ask why you didn't have insurance?

HERNANDEZ: To be honest with you, I never thought it would be this bad.

SIMON: Yeah.

HERNANDEZ: I was here in '98 with that flood and that was the worst I'd ever seen. And they said it was a 500-year flood.

SIMON: Melissa Ornelas still can't move back and had trouble finding a motel or shelter that would take her and her dog.

ORNELAS: I'm staying at Comfort Inn & Suites, I think, here in San Marcos.

SIMON: But that's expensive, isn't it?

ORNELAS: Yes, it is.

SIMON: You insured?

ORNELAS: I had insurance, but I didn't have flood insurance. It's a total different insurance policy that you have to get, which is just mind-boggling. Then I thought for sure that'd at least cover my - the inside of my property in my home and that's not covered either. If a tree had fallen on my - the roof of my house and rain had poured in that night, I would be covered. That's insanity.

SIMON: Yeah. Do you have friends and people around you helping out?

ORNELAS: You know, for the first couple of days it was really a lot, but now - people have jobs. They've got to go to work. You know, my daughter, for example, took two days off. She's a nurse, you know, and she helped as much as she could. My grandson, same thing, but there's just so much that you can do and still work.

SIMON: Steven Hernandez says that he actually feels fortunate.

HERNANDEZ: I am one of the few lucky people here in this mobile home park. There's, like, 150 homes, and I'm in pretty good shape. It's been hit, but compared to all my neighbors, I'm in great shape, and I thank God.

SIMON: And Melissa Ornelas is eager to repair her mobile home and get back to her regular life, but there's rain in the forecast.

ORNELAS: The repair process won't happen for weeks. It's too wet. You can't even start to repair. I already had two construction guys in here and it's foundation problems, too. He said I won't even start working on it till it's dry, and I certainly aren't going to do it until you get your house level 'cause it's tilted.

SIMON: I don't know where to begin.

ORNELAS: Yeah, I mean, it's like somebody gave me a teacup and said, here, empty the ocean. But I haven't let go of the teacup.

SIMON: Melissa Ornelas and Steven Hernandez in the San Marcos Mobile Home Park. Our thanks to Moze Buchele of KUT in Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.