Late at night on May 23rd, 2015, as I drove home from a show near New Braunfels, I came across an abundance of cars on the side of the road, and the flashing lights of nearby emergency vehicles cutting through the falling rain. I parked my car and approached the scene, only to find that the main bridge into Wimberley, on Ranch Road 12, was completely invisible beneath the tumultuous surface of the Blanco River. I stood near the edge of the flooding river for a while, as TV news crews came and went and an attempt to put a rescue boat into the water was abandoned, knowing that, very close to where I was standing, there were many houses underwater. It was surreal, to say the least.
When the water started receding a bit, I decided to try another route home, so I headed toward Fischer Store Road. I drove slowly down the winding route, carefully watching for the many "low water crossings". To my surprise, I did not encounter any streams covering the road. As I descended a hill and rounded the last corner before the big bridge, I slowed my car, half-expecting to see this bridge underwater just like the one on Ranch Road 12. However, I did not see any water, so I kept driving slowly forward. Then, I had a feeling, a thought, a warning... something told me to stop driving. I put the car in park and stepped out to get a better view of the road. It was difficult to see due to the combination of rainfall and the lack of lighting in the area, so I squinted my eyes and slowly walked forward. Just then, a car approached the bridge from the other side and stopped with its headlights shining in my eyes from a distance, further obscuring my vision. I shielded my eyes and continued forward, searching for a sign that the way was clear. Suddenly, a flash of lightning illuminated the scene: I was standing no more than a few feet from a cliff that dropped straight down into the raging river, which was less than 10 feet below the edge of the road. There was no bridge. The bridge was gone and my car was only 10 - 15 feet from a 90 degree dropoff into the flooding Blanco River when I stopped it. I fell to my knees, paralyzed in fear for a moment, three feet from the edge. It was the most terrifying moment of my life.
I ran back to my car, feeling as if the river was rising to chase my panicked footsteps and would overtake me at any instant, and struggled to turn the vehicle around with lack of visibility and the knowledge of my proximity to peril. I called my wife and told her what had happened, and then my phone stopped working. I gripped the steering wheel in my shaking hands and drove to the nearest gas station, which was at the junction of RR 12 and RR 32. Nobody's cell phones were working, and the land lines were inoperable, as well. I reported the broken bridge to the first EMS crew I saw, and I spent the rest of the night half asleep in the parking lot, watching first responders and stranded travelers come and go until the morning light. I wasn't able to get ahold of my wife until around 11am, which was about seven hours after she last heard from me. Needless to say, she and my parents and my bandmate were all worried sick about me because they all knew I didn't make it home, but none of them had any idea where I was. I was finally able to make it home by around 4pm, and as we all hugged our hello's, my 5 year old son explained that he had been worried all day that I had been hit by lightning.
Ultimately, the saddest part is looking back on the night and knowing that other families and friends were not so lucky; they never got the call that they were waiting for. Also, our home was unaffected, which was not the case for so many people who live along the Blanco River, and for countless others who are affected worldwide by natural disasters.
Our song "Wimberley" is being released for the benefit of people who had their homes destroyed or damaged by the flood that hit the Wimberley area on the weekend of May 23rd, 2015. All proceeds will go directly to local disaster victims through an organization called My Neighbor's Keeper. The people of Wimberley have come together in the aftermath of this natural disaster in a very inspiring way. Citizens of surrounding communities have all been very helpful in volunteering their services and time to help the ongoing restoration efforts. We are trying to do our part to help this wonderful little town, where two of our members live, so we urge you to download this song, to share it with others, to help us spread the word. We will also release a music video for this song very soon. A local recording studio, Yellow Dog Studios, volunteered their time to help us make this happen; we thank them for their generosity, and praise them for the quality of work they have produced!
Take one drive down River Road, or over to see the broken bridge on Fischer Store Road, and you will understand that the recovery from this flood is going to be a very long process. The rebuilding will last much longer than the headlines. Every penny helps, so please help us raise some funds for Wimberley, "A Little Piece of Heaven."
**Available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, and CD Baby.
Jesse Stratton – Lyrics, vocals, acoustic guitar
Kenny Martinez – Drums, additional vocals
John Ohlinger – Bass guitar
Tony Garossino – Lead guitar
Rickey White – Additional lyrics, photos, videos
Recorded at Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberley, TX:
Engineered by Travis George
Mixed by Dave Percefull
Mastered by Adam Odor