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Woman survives Waverly flood by clinging to piece of wood

Woman survives flood by clinging to wood
Posted at 4:04 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 19:34:42-04

WAVERLY, Tenn. (WTVF) — Debra Ashton is a firm believer in the scripture, "Seek and ye shall find." But the flood damage to her home in Waverly was something she never sought, and she certainly never thought she'd find herself in a situation like this.

"Everything I had worked for, went downstream," said Ashton.

The morning of the flood, she tried standing on the porch next door, which she owned and rented out to a neighbor. After making sure her neighbor got to higher ground, she stood on the front porch, assuming it would be high enough to protect her from the rising water. That wasn't enough, so she eventually climbed onto the cab of her pickup truck. "I was not on the truck no time until this house goes off of its foundation and it hits that telephone pole over there," she said.

Video shot by a neighbor shows Ashton standing on top of the truck that's now completely submerged. Then moments later, she was washed off of her perch. "A wave in the middle of this ocean here thrusts me off the top of my truck about 8-10 feet in the water. Of course, I go under and kept going under and I said, 'God you’ve got to provide me an anchor,'" said Ashton. "Well suddenly, here it comes!"

She still doesn't know if it was a telephone pole or a log, but she latched on and it whisked her down five city blocks at a breathtaking speed. "I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew whether I lived or died, I was going to be with Jesus," she said.

Then, she lost her grip on the piece of wood and was swept into an eddy. "My thought was of my daughter Anna and I said, 'God, she’s only 35 years old. She’s too young to lose her Momma, and I wanna live for her.' And I popped straight up in that water," said Ashton.

She surfaced near the roof of a building that had a few other people on top. "We’re all soaking wet, the wind’s blowing and it’s lightning, and we’re on a metal roof," she said.

As these strangers huddled for warmth, she continued to pray. "They said -- 'Debra how are we going to get down from here?' I said, 'well God didn’t save us to leave us up here for the rest of our life. God’s going to send us a helicopter,'" said Ashton.

Seek and ye shall find. A volunteer helicopter picked up the stranded flood survivors and took them to higher ground.

Ashton is now seeking new answers. Even though water from that day has receded, her trauma is still churning. "Even though I’m alive right now, the flood on 8/21 has traumatized me," she said. "Rain absolutely haunts me. It’s going to take some time."

But through counseling and her faith, she prays she can build her new life on a firm foundation. "I know God didn’t leave me that day, and he’s still with me now, and he’ll get me through," she said.

Ashton doesn't plan to rebuild in her same neighborhood, given all her trauma, but she does hope to find a new house within Humphreys County.