The firetrucks and rescue vehicles kept passing her house even after Elaine Hulgan, 76, wrote “IN ATTIC HELP” on the front door.
So Hulgan’s 84-year-old husband resorted to his best emergency signal: an ear-splitting whistle.
The noise rose above the din, and a firefighter on a Jet Ski soon rescued the couple and their two dogs off the front stoop of their brick home.
The Florida couple was trapped in their home after Hurricane Sally made landfall on Wednesday morning near Gulf Shores, Alabama, with 105 mph winds.
At least one death has been attributed to the storm.
Residents of a flood-prone neighborhood north of Pensacola since 1993, the Hulgans know what to do during a big storm. They’ve been flooded twice before and forced into the attic once.
In preparation for Sally, Elaine Hulgan started moving books and photos out of low cabinets in their den. Her husband, Jack, put the lawn mower atop a table on the back porch.
The rain started out light but soon became torrents. Water began rising from 11 Mile Creek across the street.
The muddy water crept up their yard and was soon seeping under the front door.
As a mix of water from the rain, the creek and sewage overflows began filling the one-story house, the couple knew they had to do something.
Walking into the garage, they climbed up the pull-down stairs to the attic overhead. The dogs were there, too. They all felt relatively safe.
Soon they could hear trucks rumbling into their neighborhood, down the street and past their house.
“When they kept going by and not seeing us, I told Jack, ‘Jack, are the four of us going to die in this house?’” Elaine said.
She used a can of spray paint to scrawl the message on the door, but things felt dire.
“We were just scared. And Jack said, ‘We’ll just go back in the attic and stay there.’ I said, ’Jack, I don’t want to die in the attic. And he said, ‘We aren’t going to die,'” Elaine said.
A firefighter finally heard the man’s whistling from the front door, and the Jet Ski was soon in the yard. Rescuers used a small raft to remove the Hulgans and their dogs.
Now comes the tough part — filing insurance claims, dealing with two flooded cars, finding temporary housing and waiting to get home.
“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” Elaine Hulgan said.
Elaine said they’re not sure where they might live while their home is being repaired, but they’re also thankful to be alive.
Jack “said everything was going to be OK, and it was,” she said.
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