Flash flood damages church, traps woman in home

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Puncheon Creek area hit hard during Wednesday night storm

By Ben Carlson

A flash flood late Wednesday night left one home destroyed and caused significant damage to a church and other homes in the Puncheon Creek area.


Puncheon Creek, which runs along Highway 53 in western Anderson County about 15 miles from Lawrenceburg, roared at least 6 to 8 feet over its banks when an estimated 5 inches of rain fell in about one hour.

The creek swelled over the top of Highway 53, washing out the foundation of a home at the corner of Puncheon Creek Road and trapping a woman who ended up screaming for help from a second-floor window.

Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, which sits in a low spot alongside the creek, sustained major flooding damage when the creek poured at least 5 feet of water throughout the building, tipping over a refrigerator in the kitchen area and leaving chairs, tables and debris strewn around other areas of the small country church.

Further up Puncheon Creek Road, a family’s home was spared from the rushing water, but a car outside had water as high as its head rests and floated several feet from where it was parked overnight.

Across the road, a neighbor’s bridge across the creek was washed away. Later that morning, portions of the bridge could be seen clinging to a fence line along with other debris including chairs and other yard items from neighboring properties.

Trees and brush along both sides of the creek bed were toppled and lay horizontal to the ground.

Highway 53 was damaged when a portion of it was undercut by rushing water.

As of Thursday morning, state road crews were working on the road and had it reduced to one lane.

The woman trapped in the house said she feared for her life when she awoke around 11:30 p.m. and items already floating in flood water began banging into walls inside the home.

Vicky Stanfield, a Winchester resident who was house sitting for her brother and his wife while they were on vacation, said when she got out of bed she stepped into ankle-deep water. She tried to get out the home’s back door to find out what was going on, but when she opened the door, water came rushing in.

“I barely had the strength to close the door,” said Stanfield, who was still visibly shaken from the incident Thursday morning.

Stanfield said she retreated, got her pants and phone and went to the home’s second floor to call for help.

She said first responders arrived a short time later, but couldn’t reach her.

“I was up in the window and they were on the other side of the road,” she said. “I yelled for them to come and get me out, but they said they couldn’t reach me because the water was going by 35 to 40 miles per hour,” Stanfield said.

Once the water began to recede, she said rescuers were able to get in the back door and get her out of the residence, which sustained serious damage and has been condemned.

Stanfield said she initially had no idea where all the water was coming from.

Once outside, she said she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

“I said, ‘Oh my God, the side of the house is gone. It was just devastating.”

Water rushing past the house washed away a significant portion of the foundation, along with the home’s main beam. Inside, the floors sank at least several inches.

The owners, Lorraine and Rick Coffman, were vacationing in Florida but are scheduled to return to Lawrenceburg sometime this afternoon.

Friends at the scene said they had spent a good deal of time and money recently remodeling the home but have already learned that their homeowner’s insurance will not cover the damages.

At the church, watermarks on inside walls were visible 5 feet above the floor in places. A 1,000-gallon propane tank behind the church was missing.

“It just washed away,” said Pastor Bobby Chesser as he picked through rubble inside the church and shook his head.

The church had just undergone an estimated $70,000 in renovations, including new siding, roof and floors.

Now, Chesser said, the congregation would have to pick up the pieces and move forward.

“Things had been perking up,” Chesser said as a half-dozen or so church members gathered in the parking lot to look at the damages, cry and console each other.

“We had a real good service just last night, but we’ll bounce back. The good Lord will take care of us.”

“It just makes you want to cry, but God will take care of it all,” said Lawrenceburg resident Donna Satterly as she joined others outside the church.

“The devil works hard to destroy the church, but he’s not going to do it here.”

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s edition of The Anderson News.