Camper Relates Harrowing Escape from Floodwaters
Sachse, Texas, resident Terry Whatley was staying with about 35 friends and relatives at the Albert Pike Recreation Area in western Arkansas Friday morning when the waters began to rise.
He awoke about 3:30 a.m. to the frantic pounding on his camper door. A neighbor ran to each campsite that morning, alerting other campers of the rapidly rising water that would kill three members of his party, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“When I stepped outside, there was water 5 or 6 inches deep,” Whatley told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Within a matter of minutes, it was up to my waist.
“By the time I got my mother and nephew out, it was already up neck-deep just about and moving, from what I understand, 45 to 50 mph.”
Whatley, a high school golf coach, tried to reach higher ground as the rushing water threatened to sweep them away. With his mother at his side, he told her to remain calm and try to ignore her deathly fear of the water.
“There was two or three times where I just about lost her,” Whatley said. “You kind of think to yourself, ‘Wow, this is not really how I planned to leave this earth.’ ”
Whatley was able to rescue his mother and nephew.
His 24-year-old son, Matt, and a friend, J.D. Quinn were sitting on the porch of a nearby cabin as the water rose. They tried to warn others in cabins and campers.
“You couldn’t hear anything. Just lumber and houses being destroyed and trees ripping,” Quinn said.
The torrent was so fierce that some residents called the flood an act of the devil.
“You have to have a lot of faith. That’s what gets you through times like this,” Terry Whatley said. “I’m able to tell my kids and my wife that I love them. There are some parents out there who can’t do that.”