Florida couple sheltered in attic amid Hurricane Sally flooding rescued by passer-by on Jet Ski

CANTONMENT, Fla. – The fire engines and ambulances continued to drive past 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 distress signal: a deafening whistle.

The noise rose above the din and a fireman on a jet ski soon rescued the couple and their two dogs from the front stairs of their brick house.

The Florida couple were trapped in their home after Hurricane Sally trampled ashore near Gulf Shores, Alabama, with winds of 165 mph on Wednesday morning. At least one death has been attributed to the storm.

Now comes the hard part for Elaine and Jack Hulgan – filing insurance claims, dealing with two flooded cars, finding temporary shelter, and waiting to get home.

“I wouldn’t wish anyone else,” said Elaine Hulgan.

The Hulgans, who have lived in a flood-prone neighborhood north of Pensacola since 1993, know what to do during a major storm. They have been flooded twice and forced into the attic once.

When others turned off predictions about Sally because she was originally slated to be in Louisiana and then Mississippi in the far west, Elaine Hulgan began moving books and photos from low cabinets around her den just in case. Her husband put the lawnmower on a table on the back porch.

The rain from Sally started lightly but soon turned to torrents. The water rose from 11 Mile Creek across the street.

The muddy water came out onto the road first and then onto the driveway before entering the yard. It crawled to the entrance and soon seeped under the front door.

When a mixture of water from the rain, creek, and sewer overflow began to fill the one-story house with the first 0.5 meters of stinking water, the couple knew they had to do something.

As they went into the garage, past a new Toyota just 35 miles, they climbed the pull-down stairs to the attic. 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 went on and didn’t see us, I said to Jack, ‘Jack, are the four of us going to die in this house?'” Elaine said.

She used a can of spray paint to scribble the note on the door, but things felt awful.

“We were just scared. And Jack said, ‘We’ll just go back to the attic and stay there.’ I said, ‘Jack, I don’t want to die in the attic. And he said,’ We’re not going to die, ‘”Elaine said.

A firefighter finally heard the man whistle from the front door, and the jet ski was soon in the yard. The rescuers used a small raft to remove her and the dogs.

While Jack is “pretty relaxed,” Elaine said she was terribly concerned until they were rescued early Wednesday. They went to a community center first and then to a friend’s home.

Elaine Hulgan said they weren’t sure where to live while their home was being repaired, but they were also grateful to be alive.

Jack “said everything was going to be fine and that was it,” she said.

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