ROSHARON — Tony and Alice Matura barely managed to outrun the Brazos River.
The couple escaped the surging floodwaters Friday morning with nothing but Alice’s purse, a briefcase and their dog, Munzio, when they decided to evacuate their Pearce Meadow home off FM 1462 in Rosharon.
Despite a mandatory order issued Thursday by County Judge Matt Sebesta that included all roads off FM 1462 between Oyster Creek and the Brazos River, Tony Matura had planned to weather the storm on his home’s second story. At his wife’s insistence, they loaded up the truck and left early Friday.
“I figured we could stay there, and if worst came to worst, we would move to the second floor,” Tony Matura said. “But she wanted to leave, so we decided to take a chance.”
Tony’s truck couldn’t withstand the swift current, prompting the couple to crawl out through the windows and call for rescue by members of the Texas Task Force One. The two then went with Munzio to the Rosharon Fire Department on FM 521, leaving the truck behind in a ditch.
“All you could see was the top of it,” Tony Matura said, holding Munzio’s carrier as first responders tended to a cut on Alice’s foot.
Their next plan of action was to rent a car and drive to Sargent, where they would camp out in a trailer, Alice Matura said. The two were understandably flustered, but grateful to have fled the river’s path.
“I’m (mad) about my truck, but other than that, as long as us three got out alive, that’s all that matters,” Tony Matura said.
Crews from Texas Task Force One, Texas State Guard, Rosharon Volunteer Fire Department and Texas Gulf Coast Rescue Squad spent most of the day assisting residents trapped in their homes or left stranded by rising waters, and it wasn’t only humans who needed rescuing. A resident helped a Texas Gulf Coast Rescue Squad member and a Brazoria County Animal Control officer carry a struggling baby deer to safety after scooping it up from the floodwaters.
“We evacuated a woman and six dogs, including a bullmastiff,” Texas Task Force One spokesman Will Welch said. “That roadway is completely impassable unless you have a high-profile military vehicle or airboat. Fortunately it’s not a loss of life situation or a lot of emergency calls we’re getting.”
Beyond the barricade on FM 1462, Ray Moyle rode his tractor down the street against a backdrop of first responders leading bewildered horses to safety. The 77-year-old is no stranger to the whims of the river, and he had no intention of leaving behind the comforts of his home.
“Scared of what? I’m on blocks. If that goes under water, the whole Earth would be under water,” Moyle said. “My family has been here 100 years this year and in 77 years, I’ve been through some floods.”
Further down the road, Gloria Onken paced as she talked on the phone to her husband, Darren. He had stayed behind as long as possible, even after she evacuated, but was awaiting rescue at about 11:30 a.m. Friday as water filled their home on CR 528.
“If they don’t get you out of there, I’m going to take that boat and get you myself,” Onken told her husband.
The National Weather Service gauge at Rosharon had risen to 52.5 feet as of 5 p.m. Friday, pushing an unprecedented amount of water into Onken’s home.
“Last year, we were high and dry. This year, I have 2 feet of water in my house,” she said.
Officials expected the river to crest at 52.8 feet by 6 a.m. today.
“You see it on TV, but you never think it can happen to you,” said Irma Velez, Onken’s sister. “When it does, it’s shocking.”
Just after 11 a.m. Friday, Sebesta expanded the area subject to a mandatory evacuation to include north of CR 30 S. The second order spanned CR 42, FM 1462 from FM 521 to east of the Brazos River, Sun Creek Estates residents west of Cypress Hill Drive (CR 713 N), Pecan Bend Area, CR 36, CR 34, CR 31, Planter’s Point and CR 30 N.
In addition, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials announced late Friday morning that the Ramsey Unit in Rosharon was being evacuated as the Brazos River continued to rise. About 1,700 inmates were rerouted to Huntsville and Livingston, and the Wynne, Eastham, Polunsky, Ferguson, Goree and Clemens units.
“It’s unknown when we will repopulate the Stringfellow, Terrell and Ramsey units,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said in an email. “We will continue to closely monitor the water levels, river projections, and weather forecasts.”
Oyster Creek rose from 6.4 feet Thursday morning to 9.45 feet Friday morning, according to a news release from Lake Jackson City Manager Bill Yenne.
In 1992, the creek rose to 19.7 feet after the Brazos River peaked at 51.8 feet.
The city anticipates more rain in the next couple days and has pump stations near FM 2004 and Lake Road.
Oyster Creek should rise quickly over the next day or so and remain high throughout next week, the release states.
Sebesta said he wasn’t planning to issue more mandatory evacuations as of 7:15 p.m. Friday, but the possibility still existed.
“It’s always possible,” he said. “We’ll see what the water is looking like in the morning.”
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster proclamation earlier this week for 31 counties, including Brazoria and Fort Bend. He urged residents to heed all calls for evacuation during a news conference at the Brazoria County Courthouse in Angleton Friday afternoon.
“Because of the size of the flow coming down the Brazos River that is going to continue for days, it’s very unpredictable how far it may spread or how quickly it may subside,” Abbott said. “All we do know is the necessity for certain citizens in certain neighborhoods to heed warnings about evacuations, and to understand your life is far more important than your property.”
Sebesta signed a disaster declaration last week, and commissioners met Friday morning to extend that declaration until they decide the flooding has subsided.
“We’re taking care of our business,” he said.
The danger doesn’t end when the river crests, Sebesta added.
“It takes a couple of days for that crest to pass all the way through, so West Columbia, in 24 to 48 hours at Highway 35, will see the crest. It’ll take a little bit longer to get down to Brazoria,” Sebesta said. “We’re still very susceptible to rain, and water is coming into the Brazos River up its entire length.”