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Cuero couple recalls devastating flood (video)

By Sonny Long
Oct. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.

'God Help Cuero'

Raymie Zella - now the Cuero city manager - was the Gonzales public works director in October 1998 when the Guadalupe River flooded. On Oct. 18, 1998, fearing the worst, he headed to the town's water/hydro plant.

"Not long after I got there, the plant was flooding. We abandoned what we were trying to save and got out of there."

Zella would later call Charles Davis, the city's consulting engineer in Austin. Davis also worked with the city of Cuero.

"I told him where the water level was in Gonzales. I thought he might want to give Cuero some warning. He said, 'God help Cuero'," Zella recalled.

Zella said that experience led to him learn more about how the river works.

"I've studied the river a lot since then. During the flood, the flow was more than 350,000 cubic feet per second. As long as it stays at 100,000 cfs or less, the river will get up, but it won't be anything catastrophic.

"It would take another tremendous rain event."


DeWitt County, including the city of Cuero, was the hardest hit area by the 1998 flood. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported the following:

$84 million

Total estimated damage

$32 million

Damage to single-family homes

$26 million

Damage to businesses


People who applied for FEMA assistance


Homes destroyed


Homes with major damage


Homes with minor damage


Businesses destroyed


Businesses damaged

CUERO - For Richard and Angie Navarro, Oct. 19, 1998, is forever ingrained in their memories.

Victoria County and eight other counties felt the brunt of the flooding of the Guadalupe, San Antonio and Colorado rivers.

One of the hardest-hit areas was Cuero, the couple's home.

"I still get very scared, especially if it's been raining for two or three days. I feel like something will happen again.

"You don't want to go through the same thing you went through before," said Angie Navarro.

Part of what the couple went through in 1998 was actually seeing their home float by in the floodwaters.

When Cuero police came through the neighborhood giving the order to evacuate, the couple, members of the Texas State Guard at the time, donned their uniforms and headed to Wal-Mart to buy fresh batteries for their flashlights.

They intended to help with traffic control.

"It probably took us less than 15 minutes, but we couldn't cross the street when we got back," she said.

"Then I saw a house floating by. I knew it was my house. I could just tell."

The couple had rented for 11 years, then got married and decided to buy a house on Hamilton Street.

They had made their first house payment earlier that month.

And it was gone in a flash.

"I was scared for her because she's not a swimmer," Richard Navarro said of his wife. "They told us it wouldn't hit for three days after it hit Gonzales. Gonzales is 32 miles from here. It hit real quick.

"Everyone thought it was a small flood. They didn't expect 16 feet of water."

In addition to their home, the couple lost all their belongings, though her wedding dress was later recovered on a fence. Some neighbors found and returned some photographs.

After the flood, the couple struggled to find a place to live, moving from a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer to a remodeled home in their neighborhood that had not been heavily damaged to living with Angie Navarro's brother-in-law and the home of a co-worker.

Eventually, they were able to take advantage of a city of Cuero program to rebuild a house on their lot.

They had to maintain the taxes on the house for five years then became the outright owners.

"I thank the Lord we have what we have now. We were safe that day. That's the main thing," she said.

She now keeps suitcases packed and briefcases with their important papers nearby.

"They stay packed and ready to go. You never know when it's time to go.

"I won't be able to get everything out of here, but I'll be able to get something.

"If it happens, it happens."

Angie Navarro said this time of October is always emotional for her.

"It happens every year. But we still have a roof over our heads, and we're making it - with God's will and if the creek don't rise again."



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