Emergency Alert System in Effect After Flooding

Hays County emergency officials say several mass phone calls were made to people in the Wimberley area as part of a notification system warning of dangerous weather during deadly Memorial Day flooding.

Records obtained by the Austin American-Statesman outline the series of recorded messages which increased in urgency for residents to seek shelter as the Blanco River flooded.

Hays County authorities say the system worked as intended during the disaster but officials are looking for ways to complement it with additional tactics.

Twelve people in four Central Texas counties died due to the weather, but the tragedy centered in Wimberley, where at least eight people drowned. Two children who were part of a group of three Corpus Christi families vacationing in Wimberley are still missing and it's unclear whether those families received the notifications.

The recorded phone messages were sent to all landlines in the selected area as well as to cellphone numbers of people who registered with the emergency system. But it's likely that the alerts didn't reach many who were in the tourist town for the holiday weekend since many of the houses along the river are rentals and don't have landlines.

The county sent around three messages, and for its third, it engaged a federal alert system that reaches all cellphone users in a geographic area, not just those who had registered.

For the county's first message, the system attempted to reach 2,664 phone lines in two batches of calls and succeeded in delivering the message to 1,746. Some messages weren't received due to disconnected lines, unanswered calls and busy signals.

The second message went out to the same number of lines, and connected with 1,639. The third was sent to 2,037 numbers but only reached 868 through the county system. The number of messages sent through the federal system weren't reflected in those numbers.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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