Palestine Flooding Kills Woman & 4 Grandchildren

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PALESTINE, TX -- The dark clouds retreated to the morning sun Saturday. Unfortunately, it revealed a sad reality in the East Texas town of Palestine, about two hours southeast of Dallas.

Five lives were lost overnight by flood waters. The eldest was a great grandma identified as 64-year-old Lenda Asberry. The other four, her great-grandchildren, were all under the age of 10.

Family members are in shock but know Asberry did all she could to save her great-grandchildren.

"She loved them kids. That's one thing I can say," said Asberry's oldest son, Doniell Hudnall. "She'd go out of her way for them. She loved them kids because it was just her and them."

City officials say shortly after midnight heavy rainfall and flooding damaged nearly a dozen homes, seven of which were in the Timber Drive cul-de-sac area where Asberry lived. It wasn't until dawn, after the flood waters receded and the bodies were found, that reality really set in.

"7-1/2 inches in just 24 hours is a lot, but in a half hour is tremendous. We've had a lot of longtime residents say that this is the most rain they've seen at one time," said Palestine Community Operations Manager Nate Smith.

The flood water on Asberry's side of the street reached the roof of her house and the one next door, while it went halfway up the houses across the street. Some in the area felt a clogged drainage area next to the nearby train tracks was to blame, but Smith disagreed.

"We don't believe that was a cause of it at all," Smith said. "I hate to say freak occurrence, but I believe that's what it is in this instance."

Asberry and her four kids weren't the only ones in danger either. Some just narrowly escaped the rushing water.

"When they opened the front door, the water was coming through already," Ronnie Williams said about his mother- and father-in-law, who live on Timber Drive. "They had to end up crawling through the house, through the water. My father-in-law is blind. He can't see, so she had to guide him through the house and out the back, through the gate out there and onto the next street over."

Others weren't there when it happened, but they couldn't escape the tragedy. Melody Knowles recently moved in next door to Asberry with her brother, and she rushed to her new home to help in the search and rescue efforts for the grandmother and four children.

"I came back over, and it was still up to the rooftop. After the water receded, I guess it was over an hour, we found two of the little boys' bodies floating in the yard," Knowles said. "I can't sleep because all I can think about is my great grandkids and my grandkids."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help all the victims of the flooding in Palestine, and another GoFundMe was started for the family of five whose lives were taken too soon.

"All I can do right now is just hold my composure for everybody else," Hudnall said. "I'll do that at least until everybody else gets through the storm."