LONGVIEW,TX (KLTV) - An East Texas woman is home after a harrowing experience, coming just seconds away from drowning in the Arkansas floods. For 45 years, Longview resident Hertha Whatley's family and friends had camped every summer in Albert Pike Recreation Area in Arkansas, but nothing could prepare her for what happened Friday.
"When we looked out our camper door the water was about ankle deep, and by the time we got ready to make our exit from our camper, the water was up to our waist, and we began to fight against the water to get out to go up a little hill, the rushing of the water just took our feet out from under us," Whatley says.
As the water washed away trees and cars, Whatley and her family began to scramble for high ground, trying to calm the fears of her grandchildren.
"We're going to die, we're going to die and I said 'no, sir. We're not going to die, we're going to hold onto each other," she says.
The 74 year old Whatley was sucked under a floating car.
"Cars began to move and the waters sucked me up under the car. It crossed my mind that you know this is it, maybe this is the end. My son grabbed hold of me and pulled me out from under the car. I don't swim and am deathly afraid of water," says Whatley.
Son Terry grabbed two other family members, and linking arms, a group of 20 doggedly charged to the top of a hill. In the process, Whatley tore ligaments in her leg, a small price for what she saw.
"Its just devastating. I won't go back," she says.
Rescued hours later, Whatley says the experience has been life changing.
"I'm so blessed to have my children there as heroes, its like a new life's beginning," Whatley says.
Whatley and her family lost 4 vehicles and every piece of identification they had in the floodwaters, but all 20 in their party made it home alive.