For hours last weekend, a family of five clung desperately to tree branches, literally hanging on for their lives in the chest-deep water from Florence’s epic floods. Dad hoisted his 8-year-old son on his shoulders, and his pregnant wife did the same with their 4-year-old daughter. A 60-year-old uncle cradled a dog.

They’d come back to their home in Kelly, North Carolina, too soon, facing the danger North Carolina officials have been warning about for days. Deadly flooding persisted across the 150-mile-wide, 500-mile-long state long after Florence whimpered away. The storm that parked itself over the Carolinas for days has claimed the lives of at least 32 people, most of them in North Carolina.

But for the determined crew of Wild Florida, an airboat tour company that joined a flotilla of rescuers trolling the floodwaters, the family in Kelly might have been among them.

The crew switched the engine of the airboat on and off, listening during the intervals for cries for help. They heard the family’s faint screams coming from a area too remote for professional rescue teams to reach.


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But the airboats, which normally shuttle tourists around Florida’s wetlands, could make it to the terrified family. And there wasn’t much time to spare.

“They thought this was it,” Jordan Munns of Wild Florida told television station WFTV of the family’s fears they would be swept away by the angry waters.

It took 35 minutes for Munns and his team to navigate through thick trees, branches and debris to reach them, but everyone is safe.

The team has performed rescues before, but none as dramatic as this one, Daniel Munns said.

“It was pretty emotional. That’s all I can say,” he said, fighting back tears as he spoke to WFTV . “I had to sit in the truck because I was overwhelmed.”

Florida Wild called the rescue a “full-blown miracle save” on its Facebook page.

A cousin of the family, Jamie Batchelor, a cousin to the father of the family, said in a comment on the Facebook video thread that “the baby is good” and still moving.

“They are good, unfortunately, their home was damaged by the storm so they are staying with my grandmother,” Batchelor told Yahoo Lifestyle. “They are all safe.”


Image: Scenes like this one are common across North Carolina as the state recovers from catastrophic flooding from Florence, which smashed into the coast Friday as a hurricane and dumped record rain on the state over the next several days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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