Jackson County family rescued from floodwaters

Kathryn Cargo By Kathryn Cargo

Aug. 31, 2017 at 10:21 p.m.
Updated Sept. 1, 2017 at 6 a.m.

 Jackson County Emergency Service personnel strap 8-month-old AnnaBelle Balko into an ambulance after her family was rescued from Navidad River flooding at Strane Park.

Jackson County Emergency Service personnel strap 8-month-old AnnaBelle Balko into an ambulance after her family was rescued from Navidad River flooding at Strane Park.   Contibuted by Elizabeth Hadley for The Victoria Advocate

When Elizabeth Hadley woke up Tuesday morning, her Jackson County home was an island surrounded by water.

She and seven other family members had barricaded themselves in Hadley's home about 6 miles north of Edna with a generator for Hurricane Harvey. They felt safe but didn't realize they would be blocked in by rapidly rising waters.

"It was really scary knowing we were surrounded by water, not knowing if we were going to get out and not knowing whether or not we were going to have a home when this was all done with," the 48-year-old Jackson County native said. "Much thanks to everyone that was out there helping us and risking their lives to save ours. It was a miracle that someone showed up."

Her family started calling around to get help, and before Hadley knew it, help was there. Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, Jackson County Sheriff's Office, the Edna Fire Department, the Department of Public Safety and a Jackson County citizen came to the rescue.

Hadley's husband, Bryan Hadley; her daughter, Elissia Balko; Elissia Balko's husband, Robby Balko; their 8-month-old daughter, AnnaBelle Balko; Hadley's other daughter, Anja Theiss; her mother-in-law, Jorene Hadley; her stepson, Caleb Hadley; two cats, Foxy and Tinker; and a dog, Spartacus were taken across the Navidad River on a sheriff's office boat and Edna resident Will Granberry's boat.

"When they showed up, I was very relieved; I was very thankful," Hadley said. "You see in it the newspapers, you see it on TV; you never know it's going to happen to you."

Bryan Hadley was bitten by the neighbor's dog while the rescue team loaded the boats with family members and their essential items such as clothes and baby supplies.

While Bryan Hadley was treated at the hospital for his injury, the family waited at the shelter in Ganado. Friends from La Ward who opened their home to the family came to pick them up.

"I am completely amazed with the entire community of Jackson County," Hadley said. "It's a miracle how everyone is just out there to take care of one another. I am so proud of everyone in Jackson County and all of Texas."

The Hadley house's undersiding sustained most of the water damage, and the floor could possibly cave in, Hadley said.

When fishing guide Granberry realized many boat captains had traveled to Houston for rescue assistance, he decided to stay and offer aid to the Crossroads with any rescues.

The Edna fire chief contacted him for assistance with a rescue evacuation about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

He took his 10-foot boat on a trailer down County Road 401, which was partially flooded, to where he could only travel one way. He backed his boat down the road until he found an opening to cross the flooded Navidad River near Strane Park.

His boat aided the sheriff's office boat during the rescue.

The boats launched over a pasture that was filled with at least 4 feet of water. Once they reached the river, they saw the river's bridge was submerged in water.

"It was extremely strong currents," he said. "I grew up in this area, and that's the fastest I've ever seen that river flowing."

The Navidad River crested at 31.27 feet overnight Tuesday, beating the river's record of 29.6 feet at Strane Park in 2004.

Granberry used his previous experience from working for the U.S. Forest Service to navigate the boat. The boats had to travel along the bridge and quickly cross the river before the current pushed them into debris.

The way back to dry land was more dangerous, Granberry said, because the current was pushing gainst the boats at that point. Navigating decisions had to be made quickly.

"When it's pushing, you don't have a lot of control," he said. "You have to be two steps ahead in order to navigate that."

Once they were on the other side of the river, it took about 10 men to get the boat back on Granberry's trailer.

"If the role was reversed, and someone was out there that had the resources to assist my family, I believe that someone out there would do the same for us," Granberry said.

Wednesday morning, when Hadley woke up, she was reminded of how grateful she was that her family is safe.

"I woke up this morning, and it was so beautiful," she said. "I had my morning cigarette not surrounded by water, enjoying the sunlight."


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