Kentucky Grandma, 82, Rushes to Daughter’s Home in Hopes of Escaping Flood, Loses Her Life There

An octogenarian named Nellie Mae Howard was the first confirmed death in the recent Kentucky flooding. She left a message for her loved ones in her journal, which gave them closure when they found it.

Nellie Mae Howard is the great aunt of Perry County Sheriff Joe Engle, and the first person he had to inform of a flood death was his mother, Mary Engle, who had been very close to Howard.

When he let her know Howard, her favorite aunt, had passed in the storm, it broke Mary’s heart. According to Joe, Howard had been the sister of his grandfather, Perry County Pastor Marion Estep — the victim of an unsolved murder in 2008.


Nellie Mae Howard was described as a good Christian woman who always talked about God. Howard’s granddaughter Angel Campbell stated:

“Every time you were around her she talked about God.”

Aside from God, other things she loved included flowers, cooking, and family. She had a small flower garden in her yards where she spent time regularly, and every day she would make gravy as soon as she woke. According to Angel, Howard was deeply committed to family and was always worried about someone else.


While she lived, Howard was always fearful of storms, but her daughter, Patricia Collins’s home, was not too far from hers. Angel said that anytime it rained, Howard would rush to Patricia’s home in Chavies.

It was a habit for her, and as far as she knew, it was always safe. So when the Kentucky flood hit last month, Howard was sheltered in Patricia’s home with Patricia and her boyfriend, Ben Crase.

The area where Patrica’s home was situated usually went unscathed during flooding. Howard and her daughter believed they would be safe, but life had other plans.

On that Thursday, they were all in the living room when the water suddenly rushed in. Immediately, Patricia climbed on a kitchen table, then turned to Howard and asked her to get on the table as well.

As soon as Patricia uttered the words, Howard was swept away in flood, and the table the former perched on was overturned. Her boyfriend, Ben, tried to get a hold of her, but the current was too strong.

It tore them apart and left each fighting for their lives in the dark. Patricia told Angel that she had no idea how she made it out of her home so that she could be rescued.

She remembers bobbing in and out of the water endlessly until she realized she needed something to stabilize herself. Patricia may have drowned if a sectional couch had not protected her by wedging her against a neighbor’s home.

Their home had been drifting down the road along with other houses, and collisions had been frequent. When it stopped drifting, Patricia spent nearly two hours in the water, battling to stay alive while debris piled on her.

When her neighbors found her, it took almost two hours to dig her out, but she survived with only bruises and lacerations.


Patricia’s daughter Angel saw a Facebook post claiming water had submerged the area her home was located at around 1 a.m. on Thursday. In the following hours, she got the news that her mom had survived the ordeal with bruises and lacerations.

Later that day, Angel shared a Facebook post narrating all that happened to her mother. She also expressed gratitude that she had not lost Howard and her mom on the same day. Her grandmother’s body was not discovered until the next day.

When a search party found Howard, her grandson, Chris Collins, carried her and checked for a pulse even though he knew he would find none. He wiped the mud from her face and then maintained a vigil by her side for hours until the arrival of a rescue boat.

In the aftermath of everything, Patricia and her family found Howard’s journals, and within its pages, they found an entry that brought them peace. The lyrics to a song by the Gaither Vocal Band were written in her careful handwriting. It read:

“When my eyes are closed in death with my Jesus I’ll be at rest. Then you’ll know I’m satisfied.”

Now, they can only hope that Howard is satisfied with being in God’s embrace. On July 29, Angel updated her Facebook with a post that revealed they were preparing to bury Howard.

Angel revealed she had begged Howard for years to move in with her, but Howard would say she wanted to pass away in the same place her husband had died. Angel also prayed for strength as she went through the debris for some of her granny’s things.

It is a truly tragic experience; Nellie Mae Howard was just the first of many. In the days following her discovery, four kids and more than three older people were found dead. Our hearts are with people who lost lives, property, or both to the natural disaster.

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