As lightning lit up the skies like a strobe light, Walter Blevins was awakened to find his home in Mission Valley filled with flames and smoke about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The longtime Coletoville Road resident grabbed a pair of shorts from beside his bed and a photo of his mother and crawled along the floor, coughing, until he reached the front door and made it outside into the pouring rain.
“I got out of there, and I’m thankful to the good Lord for waking me up and guiding me out of there because I couldn’t see nothing,” Blevins said. “I couldn’t do nothing about it. It’s just an act of nature.”
Blevins lost his home and car to the blaze, which investigators determined was likely caused by a bolt of lightning, said Victoria County Fire Marshal Richard Castillo.
Lightning struck twice in Victoria County on Wednesday — the Victoria Fire Department put out a kitchen fire on Lone Tree Road that officials said was also likely caused by lightning — and heavy rains flooded roads, Little League fields, corn fields, pastures and yards during a prolonged storm that doused the Crossroads in several inches of rain.
The hardest-hit location was 6.8 miles west of Port Lavaca, where the National Weather Service reported a total of 10.46 inches of rain, while areas in and around Victoria received from 3 to 7 inches.
As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the worst of the storm appeared to be over, said John Metz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, but officials warned that the Guadalupe River is expected to flood Thursday through the weekend, and creeks and streams which spilled over their banks Tuesday night could take days to recede.
Rick McBrayer, Victoria County’s emergency operations coordinator, said residents of low-lying areas in the floodplain, including the Old Town area near the Moo-Moo’s on Moody Street and the Greens Addition, should be prepared for flooding as soon as Thursday evening.
The river is currently forecast to crest at 29 feet, just below the major flood stage level of 29.5 feet, by 11 a.m. Friday. McBrayer said those six inches between the projected swell and the major flood stage threshold could make a big difference in the days ahead, especially in Bloomington and areas downstream.
“Our floodplain widens out quite a bit,” McBrayer said. “The difference between 29 and 30 feet is one foot, but it covers a very large area. That area spans out and its depth is only a couple inches deep.”
By Wednesday, many Crossroads residents had already dealt with extensive flash flooding that left roads impassable and inundated yards and ranches.
In Inez, the Industrial Little League fields were covered in several feet of water by the early afternoon, and Garcitas Creek had swelled far over its banks.
Inez resident James Conrad said the flooding on his property was the worst he had seen in the two years since he moved to the area. The floodwaters rose several feet in the yard adjacent to his home, seeping into two trailers owned by Conrad and carrying away wheels and tires.
Making matters worse, heavy winds days earlier downed two trees in front of Conrad’s home, crushing a trailer and bringing down a power line.
“It’s been a lot of rain,” he said. “Been gettin’ deep.”
The Victoria Police Department responded to 14 calls related to flooded roads and stranded vehicles Tuesday night, said Senior Police Officer David Brogger, a department spokesman. Flooding was reported along several major roads in Victoria, including Ben Wilson Street, Red River Street, Sam Houston Drive and Airline Road.
A flash flood warning remains in effect until 1 p.m. Thursday, and officials warn residents to stay off the roads if possible and avoid roads that have standing water if they have to drive, no matter whether they’re in a pickup truck or a sedan.
“If the water’s going across the road, it doesn’t matter how tall your vehicle is or how short your vehicle is,” Brogger said. “You never know what’s under there.”
County officials announced Patriot Park will close down on Friday and remained closed through the weekend. Fox’s Bend and Grover’s Bend in Riverside Park will close at 7 a.m. Thursday, and the entire park will close by 8 p.m. Thursday.
Fortunately, the worst of the lengthy and destructive storm appears to be past.
“The big-time heavy rain and flooding is over now,” Metz said. “Conditions are improving.”