When heavy rain falls in Austin, Texas, residents of the Dove Springs neighborhood brace themselves.

“The water has nowhere to run but to us,” says long-time resident Frances Acuña.

She says stormwater flows down from surrounding areas into the streets and yards of her low-lying neighborhood.

New development has made matters worse. Asphalt and concrete have replaced green spaces that used to soak up rainwater. And as the climate warms, extreme storms are growing more common.

Acuña says several years ago, a flash flood damaged many of her neighbors’ homes and destroyed their possessions.

“You don’t know what to say because you see all the disaster. So the only thing that you do is just give them a hug and you try to help them,” she says.

The experience motivated her to advocate for solutions.

Acuña now works at Go Austin/Vamos Austin, a local nonprofit. As the lead organizer for climate resilience, she helps residents prepare for emergencies – for example, by elevating furniture to keep it dry, and planning when and how to evacuate.

And she’s pushing the city to improve its stormwater systems to better protect everyone as the threat of flooding grows.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media