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Native rides out Ivan in Fla. home

Despite repeated assurances from neighbors that the area hadnever flooded in the past, Sally Tempel Miller had some uneasyfeelings as Hurricane Ivan approached her and her husband’sPensacola, Fla., home last week.

“There was no history of flooding in that area,” said Miller, a1970s graduate of Brookhaven High School who has lived in Floridamore than 18 years.

Thus, Miller and her husband, Fitzhugh, remained in the home asthe hurricane made its way toward land Sept 15.

While the Miller home was more than 9 feet above sea level, Ivanproduced enough water to flood the home. Miller said she begannoticing water coming into the home last around 2 a.m. Sept.16.

“Probably within 20 minutes, we went from no water to havingwater 28 inches in height in the house,” said Miller, who recalledthe incident Wednesday during a telephone conversation while theMillers stayed with her sister Beth in Louisville, Miss.

As the water flooded the home, Miller said she and her husbandmoved to their daughter Maggie’s bedroom on the side of the homeaway from the ocean. Maggie, 19, was staying with relatives inBirmingham.

“The surf was coming in as we made it to the bedroom,” saidMiller, adding that they had to push through debris and furniturealong the way.

Miller said they stayed on the bed and considered getting ontaller pieces of furniture, but their heads would have been at theceiling. Their only other option was on the roof, and Miller saidshe did not want to try to ride out the storm there.

“You could hear waves coming through the home and bumpingagainst the window,” Miller said.

Miller said the water started receding around 6:30 a.m. Around10 a.m., she said, they saw a neighbor next door and were invitedto that home, which was in better condition following thestorm.

“One of our kayaks happened to be right outside Maggie’swindow,” Miller said.

Miller said she got in the kayak and paddled about 30 feet tothe neighbor’s home. Along the way, she said, she noticed atwo-foot plastic Madonna statue that had been downstairs.

“I said, ‘I hope this is a good sign,'” Miller recalled.

Fitzhugh Miller and the family dog, Dodi, were able to get inanother kayak and paddle to the neighbor’s home. Once there, theMillers were able to get a ride into nearby Pace, Fla., to makecalls to family, friends and their insurance agent.

“Basically, the whole house is gone,” except for the room whereshe and her husband rode out the storm, Miller said. She said bothfamily vehicles were totaled after being under water more than 12hours.

Miller said she was thankful to have survived the incident.

“I prayed all day that God was get us through, and he did,”Miller said.

Miller said she was confident that something good will resultfrom something bad. One good thing she mentioned was how muchassistance the family had received following the disaster.

“It’s a life-changing experience getting all the help we’vegotten from neighbors, family and friends,” Miller said.

Graham Tempel, Miller’s father who has lived in Brookhaven sincethe early 1970s, said the family is planning to return to Floridaeither Friday or Saturday.

Tempel said they have found a place to rent as they plan torebuild. He said he did not know whether they would be rebuild onthe same site, but it they do, he said, the home would be off theground.