Dog alerts Whites Creek family to rising water

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 11:45pm

Stephanie Townsend was eating crawfish Saturday afternoon in the den of the house she shared with her mother and 9-year-old son when her dog — chained up outside — made a strange noise.

Townsend said she looked out the back window and saw Whites Creek, normally a good 60 to 75 feet away, had swallowed the backyard, making the dog nervous. Townsend jumped to action, bringing the dog to the back door before heading inside to gather clothes and essentials. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, the dog started howling, and when she checked outside again, the creek had advanced another 15 feet and was now just a couple feet from the house.

“It came up really, really fast Saturday,” said Townsend, 27. “The dog looked at me like ‘Are you going to get me before that water gets me?’

“I yelled to my mom, ‘It’s time to go, it’s time to go.’”

The Townsends didn’t stick around to see what happened next but fled to a relative’s house in Gallatin.

On Wednesday, Stella Townsend, 60, sat in a foldable camping chair in the front yard of the house she’s lived in for 36 years, while community volunteers carried her family’s waterlogged possessions to the curb.

“It’s the worst thing I’ve faced. It’s just horrible,” Stella Townsend said. “I think I’m still in shock. I haven’t really broken down and cried yet — just shed a few tears.”

The water reached 6 feet high inside, she said, but she couldn’t bear to venture farther than the living room.

“It’s going to have to be gutted, and we’ll start from fresh,” Stella Townsend said.

Her brother Richard Lewis and his wife, Lily, said the community response has been great, including volunteers from Hands On Nashville as well as students from Whites Creek High School.

“Once the word got out, boy, they started coming from everywhere,” Richard Lewis said.

Whites Creek Principal Karl Lang said once the school was taken care of and operational it was time to head out into the community to help.

The phone calls in Whites Creek High School community started Tuesday night. School leaders rounded up members of the football team, the JROTC and others to help clean out flooded houses and hand out water, as needed.

Whites Creek High School teacher Randall Tidwell and his wife, Stacey, showed up to help those along West Hamilton Road, including some of his own students along one of the school’s bus routes.

“Just a bunch of people started sending out a bunch of emails saying, ‘Let’s go help out in our neighborhood,’” he said.

“We just came out here to show support for our community — to help out and tell them that we care,” said Sebastian Kertchaval, wide receiver for the Whites Creek High football team.

“Our motto is one team, one school,” Lang said. “This is our community, so we’re here to work.”