GLEN MAWR - Janet and Jake Stackhouse thought they were in the clear whenever Muncy Creek, flowing behind their property a stone's throw from their living room, would turn nasty.
That's because the couple's model ranch-style house, which arrived 18 months before Tropical Storm Lee, was built on stilts 4 1/2 feet off the ground, resting on cinder block pillars. The pillars were driven into the ground and secured with rebar to strengthen the concrete.
Even if the creek overflowed its banks, surely it wouldn't rise to a level that would cause interior damage in the house they shared with their 22-year-old daughter, Courtney Bowers.
Janet Stackhouse, of Glen Mawr, stands near her house on cinder block pilings that has been elevated more after Tropical Storm Lee caused Muncy Creek, which is 60 feet behind her house, to flood and leave 10 inches of muck and water in her house. The new house and additional cinder blocks were added just before Christmas last year.
"In the year before, there were three or four times when the creek came over the bank, but it never came that high," Janet Stackhouse said recently.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee changed that. Though the couple thought their house high enough to be unreachable by the creek whenever it flooded, they found a harsh reality in Lee.
"We took in 10 inches of water throughout the house," she said, shocked the creek rose so high and so fast.
Before the flood, "we joked we were the house on stilts," she said, recalling the frightening night that the waters invaded her neighborhood.
"I could see neighbors from my front window in trouble. People were stranded in their homes."
Picture Rocks Volunteer Fire Department Chief Al Little led the rescue effort, insisting the emergency rescues would require assistance from the National Guard, which sent troops later that evening.
Firefighters tried to reach the Stackhouses by boat but the current was too swift.
"Once we saw the water recede in the house, I felt a calm come over me," she said.
The couple and Courtney waited three to four hours before Jake thought it was safe enough for them to walk to safety.
By then, it was 7 p.m., she said.
"Jake put a broom handle into the yard to see how deep it was," she said.
Water was lapping up on the last remaining front porch step.
They grabbed whatever clothes and necessities they needed and clutched their three pugs, carrying them on their shoulders, walking through the chest-deep water toward Route 220, where firefighters were waiting.
The Stackhouses were able to load materials in one of the vehicles that did not get flooded and got onto the highway, driving north to stay at a brother-in-law's home.
When they returned the next morning, they had lost two cars. The garage and the house were covered in mud.
"It was muck and mire," she said. "The floors were ruined."
Janet packed more clothes and her husband ripped up the floors and salvaged whatever materials were not impacted by the water.
In the weeks after they lived with relatives in Montgomery and Loyalsock Township and ordered another model home.
The flooded house was removed by truck and the new one arrived a week and a half before Christmas, Janet said.
"We moved in two days before Christmas," she said.
Once in the house, she acknowledged having a nice holiday but the flood had taken its financial and physical damage.
"I realized what we had gone through," Janet said.
The daunting task of unpacking what was in storage and replacing materials was a chore, she added.
Looking back, Stackhouse described how humbling it was to see the kindness and support of the community, including strangers who helped the family with finances.
"It opened my eyes," Janet said.
All of the kindness, including volunteer firefighters and neighbors, made her think how she won't hesitate should the need arise again.
"It's made me think about helping others when somebody is in need," she said. "I won't think twice."
As she talked about this trying year, she looked at the creek, which flowed low and lapped on exposed rocks.
She then looked back at her new house high on the stilts.
"You know, the creek never rose above its bank this year," Janet said. "It usually does that twice or three times a year."