By Amanda Lewanski
It was supposed to be fun. Thomas and Jessica White of San Antonio and their seven children, ages 4 months to 13 years, were camping at Whitewater Sports on S.H. 46 in Sattler, on the Guadalupe River.
They belonged to a medieval recreation group that was having a big event that weekend. And yes, it was raining, but they expected that; scattered heavy thunderstorms were forecast.
But it kept raining. And raining. Said White, "I knew it was serious when I woke up in water, we were camped on a hill." About that time, officials came out and warned campers of potential problems. Everyone got up. The men moved cars to higher ground and the women started gathering up wet clothes, sleeping bags
Most people left their tents, thinking to come back later. A few decided to ride it out and settled in. One enterprising man heard there was a chili cookoff group at another part of the campground, and went off to ride it out with them.
The cars were parked on a ridge; the camping was lower, across a field. When a van flooded out crossing the field, White realized he and his family would be staying a while. He waded out and helped push the van onto a little hummock where a Port-a-John was standing. By the time he had returned to his car, the van was 2 feet in water and the Port-a-John had floated away.
The Whites headed for the highest ground they could find. The first priority was their children. Said White, "You know how men always rag their wives for taking too much unnecessary stuff on trips? Well, we lined up the kids, and Jessica reached into her bag of unnecessary stuff and pulled out towels and dry clothes for each one. As each kid got dry, we assigned them a seat in the car and told them to stay put."
The handicapped Port-a-John was on high ground, and when the children had to go to the bathroom, they drove over, parked by the ramp and carried each child inside in turn.
The family, and others similarly stranded, spent Friday night at the campground. On Saturday morning, Eric Richards, a friend, arrived to help. Hed turned around and come back after taking his girlfriend back to town, going around barricades, because he knew people were still at the campground. The roads inside the campground were still flooded, so he left his car at the entrance and hiked the mile or so back to where the group had been camping. He brought the news that S.H. 46 was closed in both directions. By this time, the family needed water and food. It was still raining, and the car still couldnt make it across the field and up the hill. Richards and White hiked back through the mud out to the ice house across the road from the campground entrance, got supplies, and walked back. And all this time, the rain. White said, "It was raining hard enough to wash several tents away, the rain, not the river, took the tents. We were so wet, the only difference between inside and outside was how much you had to wipe your face off."
Two otherwise unflooded cars had been blocked when a tree fell across the road. Richards had an axe/shovel tool, and cleared the tree enough so the cars could leave. Then he dug several drainage channels to help clear the road across the field. Another friend, Ron Holtz of Cibolo, drove his truck across. A big Jeep 4x4 was on the other side, and each vehicle had a winch. It was time to start getting people out.
It was hard to get vehicles up the hill to the ridge. Said White, "It took some people three or four tries to get up. I was afraid somebodyd get themselves stuck on the hill and wed be blocked in, and I had to get the family home, so I went ahead and managed to get the car up. And we headed home. And started the washing."