It’s been little more than a month since a 100-year flood swept through parts of Gilmer and Pickens Counties but one family has cinched up their boots and set to work to salvage their family home.
On August 1, flood debris littered George and Sylvia Evans’ yard at Blackberry Mountain Road and Hemlock Lane outside Ellijay. It still does to a certain extent, but more organized than it was on that day. A large dumpster holds the non-salvageable items while the salvageable are organized on the lawn, awaiting their turns for cleansing and return to the home.
The Evans and several neighbors woke early that morning to flood waters circling their homes and then entering of its’ own accord, an unwelcome visitor. One homeowner was gone at the time. The Evans and their immediate neighbor, Pat Lipham suffered the brunt of the storm’s fury. Lipham’s home was swept from it’s foundation and the fire department had to perform a boat rescue to get her to safety. The Evans stubbornly stayed in their home because George was able to see the waters were beginning to recede by the time rescue personnel made it to them.
Lipham stated, although unsure at the time of the flood, she likely wouldn’t return. Her husband’s loss and now the loss of their home was too big of a brunt and she has taken that road. According to Sylvia, she’s now living in Chicago.
“I miss her so much,”
But life goes on and both Sylvia and George are a testament to that. They have no flood insurance, lost her craft shed and craft supplies, numerous pets (17 ducks, 14 rabbits, a cat and around 30 chickens) and many household items. But instead of being pessimists, they talked of the good results: the truck and equipment George saved to keep their small farm going, the 28 ducks who made it home, the people who reached out to help that are now friends.
“We’ve been fighting losses daily,”
“But the greatest gift we’ve had is the friendships of people who came here to help us.”
They said there were too many people to mention by name but a few groups were the Red Cross, the Seventh Day Adventists of Ellijay, part-year residents who live nearby and full-time neighbors.
“We’ve had people from out of state help us, people we’ve never even heard of!”
It was the assistance of the part-year people who helped them get water service again. Their pump and well were destroyed and contaminated but they’ve been given a new pump that is cleaning the water daily. They expect to get a test performed on the water very soon to get the okay for their consumption. For now, they’ve been using water from the creek to cleanse household items (along with bleach) and drinking bottled water.
After 53 years of marriage, this couple knows what adversity is and has survived it before. George worked out of town many weeks of his life but explained that he’d never parted from her overnight since their wedding. It didn’t matter how far work was, he returned home to his family every night. They started with five kids and have now grown to five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. It’s this kind of devotion that makes their marriage work and keeps them strong, even through this kind of loss.
Family is everything to the Evans: the first thing recovered from the flood waters was the grandfather clock which had George’s mother’s (Mary Adeline Ullom) ashes stored inside. She lived with them nine years before her passing. One of the last things recovered was a guardian angel in remembrance of Sylvia’s mother (Theresa Wise) whom they also cared for for some years prior to her death. Sylvia found hope in the recovery of that special angel in that there isn’t any reason for it to have safely made it through the flood. She searched that particular area of the creek bank many times before she finally spotted part of a wing and began digging.
She uncovered the sculpture lodged between a barbecue grill and the creek bank. The only damage, despite all the delicate features, was a small hole puncturing the base.
“It’s a miracle and a sign,”
"We have faith in the Lord that He’ll pull us through this. But hopefully this won’t happen again in our lifetimes."