WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV (WVNS) — Five hours clinging to a tree in the middle of floodwaters, Teresa Lowe recounts that terrifying day five years ago.
“They had already wrapped a rope around my waist and they had a rope wrapped around them, the water was so strong we were barely able to walk,” said Lowe.
After Teresa Lowe was caught in floodwaters and her husband’s car stalled, two good samaritans rushed over the get on top of the car. Once the water began creeping up to the top of the car, the three decided to get to higher ground.
“They got in the tree, they tried to get me up in the tree. The son, he got up high in the tree and at that point, the father, the other gentleman, Mark Solack, and I had our arms wrapped around the tree, he had his arms wrapped around me. We were hanging on for dear life. The water was blowing my legs out, the water was up around our neck, it was over our head, we were choking,” said Lowe.
For five excruciating hours Teresa Lowe and the father and son duo held on for dear life as water, debris, and even a house on fire rushed past them.
“I was putting my mouth into my wet clothing to not breathe in the smoke and I was watching debris was hitting my legs, I was screaming. There was stuff hitting the tree, it was popping and cracking, it wasn’t a very big tree. And we were watching the pieces of the house break off and was floating, and I was just thinking oh no we’re gonna burn, this house is gonna come over and knock our tree down, our tree isn’t going to survive,” said Lowe.
But like straight out of a movie, a man on a hot wired bulldozer was coming to their rescue.
“At that point I had one rope wrapped around one leg, I had to work it off. The other leg had some kind of wire wrapped around it so I had to work that off and then I just crawled on the bulldozer and he wanted me to stand up on the back of it, but at that point I couldn’t stand up. We were struggling with getting ready to go in shock,” said Lowe.
The man on the bulldozer was able to get all three from the tree to dry land before tragedy struck. But getting to safety would only be the beginning of the battle.
“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t feel my legs. So I’m saying to these, it was just regular citizens that did this, regular local people. And I said you’re gonna have to carry me, I can’t get off here. So they carried me off the bulldozer, put me on the tailgate of a pickup, drove me downtown in front of City Hall and at that point I started asking for a cellphone to call my family,” said Lowe.
With her husband stranded on a roof, Lowe said she thought he was dead. It was not until she finally made it to a hospital where she learned her husband and family were safe. And then, the healing began.
“I couldn’t even lift my arms to feed myself. I was hungry, I was exhausted. I had this stuff called RABDO, that Crossfit people get. It’s where they over exert their muscles. For days, I didn’t know if I’d ever walk again, I couldn’t feel my legs, I walked with a walker for days. I was in the ICU for a couple days, I was in the hospital for six days. My potassium was so low, the doctor said it was the lowest on anybody he’d ever seen that was still alive,” said Lowe.
Teresa Lowe slowly regained her strength and recovered. She said she still struggles with guilt sometimes, for those who lost their lives that day and the days following the 1000 Year Flood. She said she is forever grateful for the three men who risked their lives to save her when they did not have to. As a native to White Sulphur Springs, she said she is proud to call this place home.