Ignoring The Laughter
There was a strong smell of gasoline in the air as neighbors gathered. The man paid no attention to the pointing and jeering and carried on with his business. Large, battered clouds began forming in the sky as the wind howled.
From the ground, the tube slowly ascended as if it were a black snake. Waves of jeering erupted from rubberneckers as Randy continued pumping. All of them would swallow their words soon, he thought to himself.
Randy Wagner’s outlook on life had been shaped by his father’s, who had always told him that nothing worth having ever came easy.
Randy had worked for all his life to finally get to this point – a modest home for his family on a piece of land in Rosharon, Texas. But now, forces beyond his control were threatening to take it all away.
Wind And Rain
In May 2016, a barrage of storms began to rip through Texas. Endless torrents of wind and rain battered the landscape for seven days straight.
Residents watched in horror as the water began to rise. Randy kept an eye on the news, praying that the storms wouldn’t reach them. Then, the terrifying reports began to roll in.
Brenham County, just 100 miles away from Randy’s home, was covered in 19 inches of rain. Roads were being ripped apart, rivers and dams had burst their banks, people were missing, and whole neighborhoods were underwater.
Unbelievably, most of the people of Brazoria County didn’t seem to take the situation too seriously. But Randy refused to be a sitting duck.
They Refused To Take It Seriously
When the flood warnings finally came, the foolhardy residents still refused to take them seriously.
“The storm can’t possibly be that bad,” Randy heard his neighbors say. Some were even excited to stand outside and film the rain so that they could get Likes and sympathy on social media. Randy just shook his head as he stocked up on supplies.
The mandatory evacuation order for Brazoria County came in June 2016. Randy’s neighbors finally took the threat seriously enough to reluctantly pack up their things.
Most hadn’t prepared or bought extra supplies in case the roads were difficult to travel on. Nevertheless, slowly, they began to leave in search of drier locations. All except Randy Wagner.
Randy refused to stand by while the flood destroyed everything he’d worked so hard for, and he wasn’t about to just abandon all his belongings. But how could he possibly stand up to an unstoppable force?
He trawled the internet for something… anything. There must be something he could do. Then, he found what could be the answer.
Time Was Running Out
Randy had found an unconventional solution to the problem online, but he couldn’t wait for the device to be delivered and it would take time to set up. Meteorologists predicted that the storm would hit any day now.
While his wife and children were getting ready to evacuate, he got in his car and headed out, racing toward Louisiana.
Randy had no idea how long he had, he just knew he had to get to Louisiana and back before the rain started to fall.
He calculated that it would take him eight and a half hours to reach his destination. When he had left, his wife told him he was crazy. But his plan was crazy enough that it might just work…
As Randy drove, he saw signs of storm damage all around him. If he found that the roads were already closed when he got back to Texas, he was doomed.
Even worse, he hadn’t left enough time to get himself and his family to safety if his plan didn’t work. Every second he spent on the road was another second lost. If the storm hit now, his family didn’t have another car to leave on their own.
Racing Back Home
As he barreled back home, he prayed that the storm hadn’t gotten there first. It was a treacherous 260-mile trip, but Randy made it. He gave the man $8,300 in cash and they loaded the 800-pound package onto his truck.
Pulling into his drive, he saw his neighbors scrambling all around him. But Randy kept his cool. He ripped the package open, revealing the 450-foot long contraption.
The Maddening Crowd
Randy positioned the tubes around his perimeter and fired up two gasolene pumps. The smell and the spectacle in the yard began to attract people as they were loading up their cars.
Huge, overripe clouds began to blow in from the South. Still, Randy’s neighbors weren’t about to let an opportunity to mock him slip by. They gathered and all began to point and laugh at Randy’s desperate bid to outwit Mother Nature herself.
Jeers And Snipes
Still, the neighbors – who should have been evacuating – jeered as they watched Randy battling to fill the giant black tubes that snaked around his property. “Why isn’t he leaving?!” some murmured, “He’s crazy!” others concluded.
Randy continued to fill the inner tubes from a nearby ditch. Slowly, they began to rise. “He’s filling it with WATER!” one nosey neighbor cackled. But what was Randy actually doing?
Randy’s wife came out to see what all the fuss was about, then she looked horrified to see that her husband’s pigheadedness had culminated in this – an enormous tube that looked like a glorified kid’s water wing encircled the entire property.
She began to yell at Randy. He was supposed to be getting ready to evacuate with her and the kids! What did he think he was doing?
Meanwhile, the president declared a state of disaster. Airboats and military vehicles were scrambling to evacuate locals in Brazoria County. The Brazos River had burst its banks, sending feet of water to destroy everything in its path.
Thankfully, as Randy toiled to get the strange device ready, the water hadn’t reached his neighborhood yet … but it was only a matter of time.
You see, Randy had searched for some way… any way… of stopping the water from reaching his beloved home. He’d seen people erect all kinds of barriers before. It wasn’t long before he found a contraption called an AquaDam online and thought it just might work.
The contraption was a gigantic, watertight tube that was 30 inches tall and 450 feet long. While the other neighbors who had foresight struggled to make dams around their properties with sandbags, Randy was erecting one complete barrier.
The Flood Arrives
It took Randy half a day to erect the AquaDam. By that time, everyone had left. The water arrived just a day later, then it began to rise.
Randy watched as the flood swallowed up the surrounding homes and swelled against the AquaDam. But would it hold? If the water reached 30 inches deep, he’d know that he had made a grave mistake.
Reports and pictures of the devastation began to arrive on TV. Waterlogged houses and businesses had been laid to waste.
However, as footage from the news helicopter began to circulate, it was apparent that one house stood smugly high and dry – Randy’s small green island in the middle of the brown, 27-inch sea. The thing is, he wasn’t alone. Far away, someone else was dealing with the same danger but didn’t have the luxury of an inflatable barrier.
Over in Little Rock, Arkansas, James Hill was watching the television reports with rising dread.
It seemed that their area wasn’t going to be spared either. Heavy rains were causing flash floods in countless towns and vast stretches of countryside. He looked over at his family and saw their faces as pale as his. What were they going to do?
Another Family In Danger
When the report said to expect at least 10 inches, James felt like he was going to be sick.
It wasn’t just the fate of the family that hung in the balance. It was the 10,000 acres of crops that were sitting on the front lines of the coming attack. The ability to put food on the table and warm their home could be washed away.
So Much To Lose
But, more than anything, he had to keep his two sons and wife safe.
But what was the solution? Just pack up their most cherished belongings and scatter like the rest of their neighbors? He looked around the living room at the numerous family photos and heirlooms with a deep stab of pain.
A Glimmer Of Hope
Moments later, James spotted the red and grey glint of metal near the barn, the perfect lightbulb went off in his head.
Perhaps there was something they could do besides abandon everything. He grabbed the keys and tossed them to his oldest son. “Let’s get started,” he said. The others looked at him with confusion. “You mean we’re leaving?” his wife asked the tears building.
Need Lots Of Gas
“Not yet,” he soothed. “Run to the gas station and fill up all the cans with diesel.”
The confusion grew. “But honey,” his wife said, “The car doesn’t take diesel.” James pointed out the solution that was hiding behind the barn. There was one final stand they could take.
James held his breath and turned the key.
As the motor spat and sputtered to life, then dropped to a deep rumble, he finally let a small smile of hope appear. He hadn’t used the old excavator in over 6 months. Soon, however, he would find that this piece of heavy machinery wouldn’t gain him any friends. In fact, he was about to lose a few.
Won’t Happen Again
James and his family had felt the devastation of flooding years ago, and he was determined to escape this new wave.
Between him and his two boys, they used the digger to claw up earth and build their levee around the house. It was now a race against time.
Begging, Angry Neighbors
His wife had been scrambling to move things upstairs. But when James came in for a quick power bar to satiate his hunger, he noticed she had been crying.
It was worse than expected. A few neighbors had seen what was going on and called to beg James to come over and do the same for their house. There was just one, huge problem.
Not Enough Time
The clouds were already rolling in and darkening the sky like the evening was coming.
They were already praying to God to hold off the flood long enough to finish their barrier. There was just no time to help anyone else. But the neighbors didn’t seem to care. When the first drops began to fall, James held his breath and pushed the excavator hard – they still weren’t done yet.
Barely Made It
James ignored the endless stream of water running down his face. At this point, they were scraping mud to the make-shift levee.
It was a miracle they managed to finish just in time, but it was only their house that would stay safe. The crops were gone. Their friends had evacuated too. At least his family would be safe.