AUSTIN (KXAN) - Whenever heavy rains move into Austin and the surrounding area, the region is at risk for flooding.
Central Texas is often called "Flash Flood Alley" because about 11 percent of the land in Texas is prone to flood damage.
On a stormy night in September 2010, Carrie Arsenault found herself in a frightening situation.
"It was raining at the time," she said, "about 11 o'clock."
Arsenault just finished dinner at a friend's house and was cautious as she headed home.
"When I came down here I knew there was a water crossing to my right, so I didn't want to go that way," she said. "So I looked to my left and I didn't see any warning signs. I knew there wasn't water crossing this road."
What she didn't know was Bull Creek was filling rapidly just parallel to the road she elected to take. The water spilled over its banks and caught her completely off guard.
"I did see some water on the road so I stopped, looking ahead thinking 'what should I do?' and at that point, my car stalled."
Surviving The Storm Airs:
- Saturday March 30 at 6:30 p.m. on KXAN
- Sunday March 31 at 6 p.m. on KBVO
- Sunday March 31 at 9:30 p.m. on the CW Austin
Floodwaters quickly overtook Arsenault's car. As the waters spilled inside and filled above her ankles, she grabbed her phone.
"I called 911," she said. "First thing (the 911 operator) said, ‘do not get out of your car, at all.'"
As the waters rose, so did the force, eventually carrying the car downstream to the guardrail of the Ranch Road 2222 crossing.
"At that point, you feel like you're somewhat in a boat," Arsenault said. "Looking up 2222, I saw a fire truck coming down, and the whole time, I'm on the phone with 911."
In an attempt to flag down the firefighters, she managed to roll down her window, and began to waving her hands.
Just then, her car was swept over the guardrail and into the raging waters.
"As I'm sinking in my car, it was just quiet," she said. "They say something flashes before your eyes. It was pictures of my two kids that I have in my house."
That image drove Arsenault to fight.
"I had my window down about (halfway), I pulled the window down, and I just pulled myself out."
She swam to the surface and struggled to get her bearings.
"At that point I didn't necessarily know where I was," she said. "It's a very helpless feeling. You don't realize the power of a flash flood."
In the middle of the night's darkness, and the flood's chaos, Arsenault spotted the Christmas lights strung up on the County Line Restaurant.
"It was a familiar sight, so I knew if I could just fight the current and get across," she said, "I knew I needed to get out of the water."
Arsenault, kicking and swimming through the pain, made it to the shore.
"I was able to grab a tree," she said. "I just pulled myself up."
Out of the water, Arsenault finally found help. She said by staying calm and having luck on her side, she survived the night.
"I knew if I didn't have my window down, there was no way I would have gotten out of that car," she said. "I think truly that's probably what saved my life."
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