Rushing flood water swept away homes, cars and animals Sunday night after Dry Creek, so named for its appearance most of the time, overflowed when it couldn’t handle a torrent of rain.
Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said there are at least 50 to 100 families affected by the disaster.
“The vast majority of those are in Dry Creek,” he said, but other areas of the county, including Deakins Road, Austin Springs Road, Cash Hollow and Arnold Road, also suffered severe damage.
“Most are mobile homes that sustained a lot of damage,” he said of the Dry Creek area. Damage assessment teams went door to door Monday, talking to residents about the damage to individual properties.
Officials’ early estimates of the damage are in the millions of dollars.
Eldridge said three EMS personnel suffered minor injuries during rescue operations Sunday night. If there was any ray of light in the dark mood that fell across the area, it was that there were no major injuries or deaths in the disaster.
That still didn’t soothe all the hurt apparent in the eyes and voices of residents along the country road.
Doug Wilson, 65, like many on Dry Creek Road has lived there all his life. Most of the houses and mobile homes sit on land his father once farmed.
Wilson’s house — his family’s home place — no longer sits on its foundation. Instead, it was lodged on a bank near the road, approximately 30 to 50 yards from its original location.
Wilson was home when he felt the house begin to move and rode in it until it stopped. Then he crawled out a window to safety.
“I knowed it was coming a good rain but I stayed in my house,” he said. “I hadn’t lost power til I felt it start tearing loose. When I felt it moving I cut the power off and it just,” swept away.
“I wasn’t frightened. I just rode it down there and everybody started yelling for me to get out. It turned the house plumb around,” he said.
Wilson said he wasn’t scared during the ordeal and appeared to accept what happened as just another fact of life.
Much of Monday, cars carefully maneuvered around the house, a corner of which took up about half the road where it came to rest. On the back porch, which ended up facing the road, jackets still hung on hooks and a radio was sitting on a shelf. On the front of the house, a hummingbird feeder still attracted a frequent visitor.
And a car’s front end, Wilson’s brother’s vehicle, was wedged under the house.
All along that part of Dry Creek Road, the 200 block, mobile homes were turned the wrong way, mud caked the landscape that was once green pasture and cars were sitting in odd locations after being swept by the water.
Residents whose homes flooded also said there were thick layers of mud inside.
Linda Gouge, one of the lucky Dry Creek Road residents, said she had no damage at her home.
“You kinda feel guilty,” because her neighbors were hit so hard, Gouge said. She was working Sunday and visited a friend after getting off work at 5 p.m., so she had no idea what was happening on Dry Creek.
When she tried to get home around 6:30 p.m. there was no safe route to get there. It was 12 hours before Gouge was finally able to get to her house, relieved to find nothing amiss.
At the same time, Gouge was disheartened to see how affected her neighbors were.
Helen Story and Virginia Garner readily admitted they were scared as the water rose quickly around their homes. Garner, who lives in a mobile home, said the water was within an inch of entering her home. She was rescued Sunday night by emergency personnel who helped her walk through the water to safety.
Story said water entered her basement but she stuck it out at home Sunday night. If a new round of rain increases the flooding, Story said rescue crews advised her and her husband to evacuate.
On Methodist Church Road, which leads to Buffalo Mountain Camp, there was more devastation. A large landslide — reportedly several acres — destroyed two buildings on the property and two walking trails received heavy damage, according to a summer staffer.
The road leading into the camp was impassible by vehicle. The rushing flood water tore away asphalt, and even Monday morning water was still flowing through what some fear might be a new path for the creek on the property.
Other residents further down Dry Creek Road also said they are afraid the creek path may be changed to go directly through their property.
That remains to be seen, but the water could continue to flow across lawns and pastures with more rain forecast this week.
Eldridge said FEMA is already in the area assessing the damage, but for the area to receive federal aid the damage must meet a threshold of $8.5 million.
“Combined uninsured loss would have to exceed $8.5 million for FEMA to step in,” he said. With home owners insurance not covering the flood damage, that threshold might not be too hard to meet.
Even so, when the 2011 tornadoes hit Washington County, FEMA’s contribution toward uninsured losses was $31,000 per claim.
“We’re going to have to come up with some resources,” to help residents, Eldridge said. Officials already made contact with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to request help.
The American Red Cross is also on scene and delivered meals and water to affected areas and also maintained a shelter for anyone who needed a place to stay.
The shelter is located in the gym at Lamar School.