Debris dangled from branches along the banks of Wallace Creek at Houser Farms, a chicken and egg supplier in Alexander County, after heavy rains caused widespread flooding in much of central North Carolina on Thursday.
Five people were killed in flooding at a nearby campground, with another dying in a storm-related wreck. Many area roads remained closed Friday afternoon, with flooding affecting both the Catawba River watershed and the South Yadkin River watershed, of which Wallace Creek is a tributary.
Farm owner Tim Houser told Carolina Public Press on Friday that he spoke with one of the victims — the wife of one of his employees — just hours before she died.
On Thursday morning, he woke to multiple phone calls from drivers who couldn’t get to his chicken houses because of the rain and mud.
Then, just after 5 a.m., he received a call from the employee’s wife who was trying to get in touch with her husband who had arrived at work a few hours earlier.
She told Houser that the water had risen up to her porch at the Hiddenite Family Campground, where the couple lived. Houser urged her to stay put and wait for rescuers.
“I don’t know when she decided to get in the water, but she did,” Houser said. “And they found her dead last night. It killed her.”
In his 40 years as owner living along Wallace Creek, Houser has never seen flooding of this magnitude.
“Flooding around here has never been the river getting out its banks,” Houser said. “It gets up and really rolls down through there, but I don’t know what it was this time.”
Moisture moved into the area late Tuesday night, he said, but a pause in the rain on Wednesday gave rise to false hope.
“I saw an awfully pretty rainbow on Wednesday,” Houser said. “And I just thought, ‘Man, what a promise. God said he ain’t gonna flood us.’”
But the rain returned and grew heavy Wednesday night and into early Thursday, prompting widespread flooding and washing out bridges and roads in Alexander County.
As flood waters surrounded homes at the nearby campground, water spilled from the banks of Wallace Creek, covering a tanker and inching up the walls of an old mill and storage building at Houser Farms.
Rising waters also creeped up over the hood of three trucks parked nearby, while a horse trailer and another vehicle were completely covered, Houser said.
On Friday afternoon, an overturned SUV covered in mud and debris rested among downed trees in the now-quiet creek, its chassis barely discernible.
“I never expected all the torment that was to follow that,” Houser said.
“It’s pitiful what happened. Big ole trees that have been there for years and years, it just uprooted and throwed them down like it wasn’t nothing and pushed them on down the river.”