🛣️ An Austin native coined THIS phrase
Source: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images
- 5 min read

🛣️ An Austin native coined THIS phrase

Plus, what critics of, and proponents for, land zoning changes chatted about yesterday.


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☀️ Heya, Austin.

We chatted with the Austinite who came up with the saying "Turn Around, Don't Drown" 20 years ago. A little flood-safety reminder never hurt anybody.

Then, catch up on housing and zoning chatter at City Hall and peep some of the biggest stories from this week.

'Turn Around, Don't Drown' turns 20

Fun (or not-so-fun) fact: It only takes the height of your cowboy boot, or about 12 inches, to float most vehicles. And a mere 6 inches of fast-moving floodwaters can knock over an adult. Yeesh.

Flooding is one of the top weather-related killers in the U.S. It claims an average of 90 deaths each year, with more than half of all deaths caused either by people walking through floodwaters or by vehicles driving around barriers and into a flooded roadway, according to the National Weather Service, or NWS.

Source: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

So 20 years ago, it launched a flood-safety campaign centered on the slogan "Turn Around, Don't Drown."

Another fun fact: That life-saving zinger was coined by Hector Guerrero, an Austin native and the warning coordination meteorologist at the weather service’s forecast office in Brownsville.

Guerrero told us that he:

  • Was worried about hurricane evacuees from the Texas Gulf Coast who might move to Central Texas. After all, we're smack dab in the middle of Flash Flood Alley.
  • Had seen floods in Austin growing up, including the devastating 1981 Memorial Day Flood along Shoal Creek, where 13 people lost their lives.

“When these hurricanes were approaching, they were sending people to evacuate to the deadliest flood alley in the country, which is Austin and San Antonio,” Guerrero said. “And unfortunately, I would hear stories of some of the same people succumbing to the flash floods in their vehicles, while living in this area.”

So Guerrero thought the weather service could use a catchy phrase or slogan that would do a good job of warning folks about the dangers of flooded roadways. He took inspo from another popular safety slogan that's now a staple in households and schools.

“I thought something like the fire-safety slogan 'Stop, Drop and Roll' would be great,” Guerrero said. “So, after meeting with some firefighters in Harlingen, we produced the slogan 'Turn Around Don’t Drown.'"

In 2004, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration officially launched the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” campaign. Since then, hundreds of permanent “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” signs and billboards have been placed along flood-prone roads.

And Austin's gotten involved, too. The city's Watershed Protection Department is teamed up with the NWS to get the message out far and wide.

“We will continue to find creative ways to ensure that Austinites understand the dangers of living and driving in Flash Flood Alley and prepare themselves in advance of a flood," said Susan Garnett, the department’s communications manager.

Yeah, it's a simple phrase. But hey, it works. Nothin' wrong with a catchy one-liner to get the job done.

And at the end of the day, it helps us all stay safe. That's a winner winner chicken dinner right there.

— Mary Wasson, Meteorologist

Temperature: 81 degrees | Sun:  At attention | What to Expect: Breezy south winds

Can we bottle up this weather and carry it into May, pretty please? Eighty degrees in April is our normal high, but by this time next month, our normal high gets close to 90 degrees and remains above 90 until late September. Enjoy it while you can.

Mary’s Tip: Want to be transported back to the medieval times this weekend? Pray, get thyself on down to the Sherwood Forest Faire, good lords and ladies.

Austinites respond to proposed Land Development Code changes

More than a hundred Austinites signed up to talk at Thursday’s joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission. The speakers were divided in their support and opposition to the three major proposed changes, including HOME Phase 2, which would reduce the minimum lot size for a single-family unit. (Need to catch up on what’s being proposed? Check out our recap here.)

So what were the big arguments for and against the proposals? 

Proponents for HOME Phase 2 and the other proposed code changes mostly made arguments similar to the city’s claims that the changes are an important first step in creating more housing, which will help with the affordability crisis. 

Critics, on the other hand, raised concerns that the proposed changes would only increase displacement on the East Side and among lower-income residents and people of color. Many also expressed frustration at the lack of community involvement in the process and speed at which the council was moving forward with HOME Phase 2 and other changes. 

Many, including several speakers who voiced support of HOME Phase 2, also expressed concerns with the fact that the proposal did not include affordability requirements.

Want to learn more or share your thoughts? 

The Planning Commission will have two more meetings to discuss the proposals — on April 23 and 30.

The city has two open houses planned — on April 17 and April 20 (this one will be virtual) — and is working on planning two more. 

City Council will discuss the proposed changes at a work session on May 14. 

Under the current timeline, the council plans to vote on the final proposed code changes during their regular meeting on May 16.

4 stories you shouldn't miss this week

🌚 Event organizers of a Burnet County Texas Eclipse Festival released a statement to the press after a 67-year-old attendee collapsed on-site and later died at the hospital on Saturday, prompting social media criticism. They canceled their event a day early on Monday, citing severe weather. Now, it seems organizers are still on the defensive, if their 1,600-word news release is any indication.

⚖️ Austin Mayor Kirk Watson officially announced his re-election campaign this week. If he wins the race, he'll be in office until 2029.

🌬️ Texas is now a top producer of wind energy and solar power, an Axios analysis said this week. A third of power generated in Texas comes from renewable energy.

🌮 Feelin' hungry? Read this Texas Monthly profile of El Paso Flauta, a food truck in South Austin.

🦃 Beast Mode

Today's clue is for 5 Across: the first of two words in the name of the food truck at Zilker Brewing Co. on East Sixth.

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura and Mary Wasson.