The Night The Nueces Flowed Upstream

Oct 20 1984, AP News Article

Oct 20 1984, UPI News Article

U.S. Geological Survey Report: “Odem Flood”

It was 25 years ago.  In my hometown of Odem, Texas somewhere between eighteen and twenty-five  inches of rain fell in a matter of hours.  To this day, it is simply referred to as “The Flood,” and nearly every Odemite I have ever spoken to still has memories of that night.

The memories I have of that night are those of a child.  Two months prior, I had turned eleven years old, and a month after that, I started the sixth grade.  The playgrounds of elementary school were gone, and the steady march to becoming a teenager had begun in earnest.

I remember Tia Maria was in town visiting us, as she would do every so often.  It was a Friday; and the skies getting dark as the evening progressed.  The rain was welcomed at first, because we were in a bad drought.  I remember wading through my backyard in waist-deep water to get to an aunt’s house, where we would stay the night.  The power went out at one point, I remember a bottle of cologne being used as an improvised  lamp.  The water rose to the steps of my aunt’s house; some parts of the floor were wet.

I remember waking up late, my parents had already gone to the house.  The power was back, I was told I had to stay at my aunt’s house, so I watched the Smurfs with one of my cousins.  Once I got home, I saw the line on the walls where the water had been.  My brother and I slept in bunk beds at the time, I was on the bottom bunk and my bed had been ruined by the water.  My mother was upset, we had lost nearly all of our pictures, I remember stacks of ruined Polaroids; seeing rainbows of plasticky color where family memories had once been.  Dad had already pulled out the carpet from the living room, he was not upset, instead he was very busy around the house, and talking on the telephone.

I remember throwing out stacks of wet magazines, and wondering if my collection of Atari 2600 cartridges would still work.  I remember the truck from the Red Cross that went through our neighborhood that evening, and going out to the curb to pick up peanut butter sandwiches and lemonade.  I remember hearing about the bus full of kids that got stuck and the man down the street that had to make a hole in the ceiling and roof of his house to get his family out.

The furniture and carpet would eventually be replaced, the house repaired and life would return to normal, but I doubt that anyone who lived through it will ever forget that night.  Even though my own memories are the scattered remembrances of an eleven-year old, I know I won’t.

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