The so-called “1,000-year storm” — meaning a storm that has a 1-in-1,000 chance of occurring in one year — has devastated South Carolina, causing death and destruction.
Near Columbia, as much as 20 inches of rain fell over the weekend, CNN reports. That’s where 87-year-old George Osterhues of Ottawa, Canada, found himself Sunday during a road trip to Florida with Tila, his Yorkshire Terrier.
Osterhues had to take a detour off the flooded interstate and then became lost. He ended up on a country road that crosses a creek near a flood-prone lake. The creek was overflowing and flooding the road.
“Some people were turning around and I was trying to do the same thing, but I was already a little too far,” he told WSOCTV. For a couple of hours, he and Tila were trapped in their car in the raging floodwater.
Neither of them would likely have survived if Tom and Julie Hall, who live nearby, hadn’t been checking flooded roads for stranded people. Tom spotted Osterhues’ car.
“It was just about submerged,” he told the Charlotte Observer. Steadying himself with tree branches, he waded over to see if it was occupied.
“I saw some movement, and then he raised his hand and waved at me, and that kind of broke my heart because I knew at that point we had to go back and get him,” Tom told WSOCTV. Julie called 911 and ran back to the house to get rescue equipment and their teenage sons, Brice and Graham.
By this time the raging water was chest deep. Tom tried to reach the car using a canoe, but the current was too strong. Using trees and ropes, Tom was able to wade out to the car.
“The water was so strong he could hardly move and I couldn’t move either,” Osterhues told WSOCTV. He still managed to hold on to Tila.
Osterhaus, who was born in Germany, survived a Nazi death camp during World War II. When Tom reached his car, he told him that after all he’d been through, he was ready to die.
But Tom would have none of it. “No way was that man going to die out there,” he told the Charlotte Observer.
Osterhues was very calm, Tom told WSOCTV. “I begged him to leave the dog but he said the dog is going with us.”
Tom gave Osterhues a life jacket and pulled him and Tila out of a car window. Using ropes, it took an hour for the Hall family to tow Osterhues and Tila to higher ground.
Not only did the hero Hall family risk their lives saving Osterhues and Tila, but they offered to let them spend the night at their home. Julie’s physician father examined Osterhues to make sure he was okay (Tila was fine as well). The Halls even arranged for a rental car so Osterhues and Tila could continue their road trip.
“They already did too much for me,” Osterhues told WSOCTV. “They have a big family to take care of, and now me on top of that.”
How to Help Those Affected by the South Carolina Flooding
You can help people and pets displaced by the flooding by donating to the following non-profit organizations:
- SQ Rescue, Inc. — Foster pet parents are especially needed.
- Pawmetto Lifeline
- The Animal Mission
- Lost & Found Pets of South Carolina — Anyone who has lost or found a pet in flooded areas can post a photo and information on this Facebook page.
- American Red Cross
- Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina
- Central Carolina Community Foundation
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