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The Great Flood – Updated

August 20, 2010
***** UPDATE *****


On October 23, there will be a community-sponsored fundraiser for Miss Dorothy. It has not been finalized, but she has spoken with Habitat for Humanity about rebuilding her home. I have received several donations from my readers and friends and I appreciate that so much, as will she. If anyone else would like to make a donation, I am going to be in Tennessee in early November and will present her with a check from all of you. Every little bit helps. Even if Habitat builds her a new home, she will have to completely refurnish the space herself. There is a donation button at the bottom of the page. Thank you for your support.




On Wednesday, August 18, a tiny community in Tennessee called Flat Gap was almost washed away with a flash flood that left one woman homeless and caused thousands of dollars in damage to others. This was the second major flood of the summer for this community (remember the images of Nashville and Memphis back in May?), and has left the neighbors devastated. This is my home: this is where I played as a child, where I learned to ride a bicycle, where I watched my parents turn from “Mama” and “Daddy” into “Grandma Laura” and “Grandpa Mike.” I am heartbroken.

Miss Dorothy's house, as it is now...

I was on the phone with my mama Wednesday, as they watched their neighbor’s television wash by… think about that for a second. If her television was washing by… what was going on in her living room? We soon found out: the house was washed off it’s base and shifted downstream almost to the neighbor’s house. The house has been destroyed. Luckily Miss Dorothy decided to go wait out the storm at a neighbor’s house; the first time she’s done that in her 60-plus years.

My parents’ closest neighbors (and my grandparents’ best friends – Bud and Robbie) were at home as well – living behind a creek, with a bridge connecting them to the main road. The bridge is gone and they had more than a foot of water in their home as they waited out the storm. I found out today that after being inspected, the house – which Bud built himself in the 1940s – is beyond repair. Unfortunately, they will have to relocate. They are in their 80s.

My parents’ house, luckily, is one of the sturdiest in the area, so they made it through okay, but the water rose above their air conditioning units (those suckers are at least three feet tall), made it’s way into their garage and deep into the low-lying rooms in the back. After the storm, she called to tell me that they had spoken with the National Weather Service. I can only imagine that it was pretty bad if they called to check on my parents.

This is a farming community. Fences are down, crops are ruined, livestock are free to roam wherever until order can be restored. They will receive no media attention, they won’t be getting vouchers to go live somewhere else while things are settled. If I did a poor job describing the chaos, please know that it was horrible. If nothing else, I know that because as I was on the phone with my mama – just before the phone went out – I could hear the concern in her voice when she said she would make sure they (they being my 83 year old grandma, my dad who had surgery last week and my little brother who just so happened to be too sick during the storm to get up and worry with them) would get to higher ground if need be. Mamas don’t let their guards down and mine did. It was bad.

There aren’t a lot of young people who live in Flat Gap. They live on limited resources and depend on the very crops and resources that were just lost. The hardest hit, Miss Dorothy, will need help picking up the broken pieces of her life and starting new. In a small rural community, this is harder than it sounds. I have decided to set up a fund to help her through this crisis. I don’t expect a lot of money to come in, but I do hope that people see it in their hearts to make contributions so that we can help start rebuilding her life. This was no Katrina, but it was extremely devastating and will have a long-lasting effect on the community.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mikel Welch permalink
    August 20, 2010 3:00 PM

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I will definitely donate something to the fund.

  2. Julie Lowry permalink
    August 22, 2010 3:43 PM

    Joe Riley, you summed it up. I am part of the Flat Gap community as well, and though I am in Texas now, it is my home. I grew up there with Joe Riley and his family. They are my family as well. Bud and Robbie are my grandparents. Though we have managed to save a lot of their things, they will never be able to live on Flat Gap again as the damage to their home is just to extensive to be repaired. These folks are just poor country people who basically have not much more than the clothes on their back anyway, before the flood waters hit. Anything donated will go to a worthy cause. We are all family on Flat Gap, always have been, always will be. Thanks so much for helping us help them.

  3. Emily permalink
    August 22, 2010 6:49 PM

    One man rescue – that’s you baby. Please keep us updated and let us know if we can help.

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