On May 23, 2015, heavy rains ravaged the Texas Hill Country, causing severe flooding and destruction along the Blanco River. The rapid, rising water took nearly everything in its path. More than 130 PEC lineworkers worked tirelessly to restore power to thousands of members through high water, damaged roads, and debris-covered bridges. For the communities of Blanco, Wimberley, and San Marcos, it was devastating.
Leading a crew that day was PEC Regional Operations Manager Terry Kircus. “There were houses that were just gone,” he said. “Water was running through homes and power poles and wires were down — some of them going across the river. It was total destruction.”
Between Saturday, May 23, and Monday, May 25, PEC responded to more than 800 power outages affecting nearly 30,000 members. Staff rotated shifts and worked around the clock to get the lights back on. Difficult terrain and flooded roads made it tough for crews to access many areas, but by that Wednesday morning, power was restored to nearly all the affected locations.
“The thing I remember most was just how appreciative our members were,” Kircus said. “Their electricity was one thing the storm took that they could get back. People would come up and thank us for getting it turned on.”
Rebuilding Blanco State park
Both during and after the floods, PEC was committed to helping the region recover as quickly as possible. Ethan Belicek, superintendent of Blanco State Park, remembers how quickly everything unfolded.
“It started raining late morning Saturday and just didn’t stop,” Belicek said. “We got 16 inches [of rain] that day and it had nowhere to go.”
Once the water receded, Belicek said the damage was beyond anything he could have imagined.
“Everything was just gone,” he said. “Our picnic tables washed away, our shelters were down, rocks moved, and 100-year-old cypress trees laid along the riverbank. It was complete devastation.”
Marcy Westcott, president of Friends of Blanco State Park — a nonprofit that provides volunteers and fundraising for the park — works closely with Belicek and recalls that nearly 75% of the park was damaged.
“Just the idea of restoration was daunting but we knew we had to do it and began almost immediately,” Wescott said.
She said it took more than four months of volunteers working at the park to get it back up and running. Despite the helping hands, the nonprofit still needed funds. Westcott said disaster relief fell short of what was needed to fully restore the park, including its day-use shelters.
In 2019, Westcott applied for a PEC Community Grant on behalf of the Friends of Blanco State Park. PEC’s Community Grants are made possible by the cooperative’s Power of Change program, and the group was awarded $5,000 to rebuild the park’s day-use shelters.
“Blanco State Park is a gem, and an important economic driver to the community,” Westcott said. “The PEC grant really changed things for us and we were able to rebuild more of the shelters than we initially thought. If people came to the park and could see what we’ve been able to do as a result of the grant, they’d be amazed.”
Thanks to generosity of PEC members, Friends of Blanco State park, and other volunteers, the future is looking bright for Blanco State Park and the community.
Help nonprofits like Blanco State Park
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