Flood risk remains high for parts of Shearer Hills/Ridgeview neighborhood

A flood on Memorial Day weekend in 2013 highlighted just how dangerous the situation had become

SAN ANTONIO – The Shearer Hills/Ridgeview neighborhood is centrally located in San Antonio, but it’s that location that also puts those who live there in a precarious position.

It sits next to Olmos Basin and lies in the Olmos Creek watershed. Additionally, urbanization has occurred around the neighborhood’s edges, increasing the flood risk.

Flooding has long been a known issue, but it was Memorial Day weekend in 2013 that spurred the City of San Antonio to take action to prevent the loss of life and property in the area.

Nearly 10 inches of rain was reported at San Antonio International Airport that morning, which came down in a matter of hours.

“I looked out my front window and just right there I saw a car perched against the telephone pole, with a child like waiving,” said Erika Noriega, recalling the rainy morning of May 25, 2013. “He might have been in middle school, waiving out for help, screaming for help.”

Noriega admitted she thought she was hearing cats at first, but quickly realized the cries were coming from children.

She alerted her husband, Luis, who didn’t waste any time jumping into action. Grabbing a rope from his garage, he tied it to a nearby tree and then to himself. He bravely stepped out into the rushing, powerful stream of water that was flowing down Dellwood Drive.

Photo courtesy of Erika Noriega, showing the car resting up against the telephone pole. (Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

”So, I had to hold it about right here, with the car here, and that’s just when I started taking the kids out,” explained Luis Noriega, who reenacted the moment. “Then I saw my brother-in-law show up and so I was able to give him a couple of the kiddos.”

Bradlee Taylor, Erika Noriega’s brother, was living a few houses down and heard the commotion. He rushed in to help.

“Then, that’s when the lady, you know, that’s when we figured out how to get her out and when she came out, that’s when I went into the water,” described Luis Noriega.

Both the driver and Luis Noriega fell into the fast-moving water. At this point, water was starting to rush over the car.

”I remember seeing big chunks of asphalt flipping in the street,” recalled Taylor. ”I just pretty much grabbed both of them and helped them get out the water.”

It was that heroic act by the men, both former military, that likely saved the lives of those in the car. They believe had the car not rested up against the telephone pole, that it would have washed down into an area drainage ditch.

That drainage ditch ran between Barbara Drive and Shannon Lee Street. It quickly overflowed and flooded the homes along both streets.

In an effort to make major improvements, the City of San Antonio bought more than 30 homes to clear them out of the way to make for a larger drainage project. It was named the Barbara Drive Drainage Project.

BELOW: View Drone 12 footage of the Barbara Drive Drainage Project

That was phase one, which was completed. Phase two has also recently been finished. Phase three is funded, but under design, according to the City of San Antonio. The price tag for all three phases sits at $33.8 million, paid for through bond money.

All of the work, however, is downstream of where the Noriegas live. They say flooding is still very much an issue. Just last month, their garage flooded from heavy rainfall. Discussions with the city have led to planned small improvements to their street, but it’s clear to those who live in this part of the neighborhood that more needs to be done.

“It stops about right here,” explained Erika Noriega, showing how phase three stops short of their street. “The infrastructure needs to be up there to pull that water underneath.”

“What the engineers have told me is that the water going down south of where the channel is... those houses there are protected. But further upstream, you still have the problem,” said Erik Sanden, the president of the neighborhood association.

Erika Noriega has been on a decade-long quest to make sure this problem doesn’t take someone’s life.

“We’ve been advocating,” she said. “All the people that live in this neighborhood, we have been advocating for it to get fixed; for the city to fix it. We sit on our porch and when it’s flooding like that, we’ll see cars that probably don’t know the area and aren’t sure how deep it is. We’ll tell them please do not...we’ll be waiving...please do not come, don’t cross.”

Barbara Street Drainage Project (Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

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About the Authors

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.

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