Friday, March 26, 2010

Do Not Cross

David and Kartina Baudek  of Mayer, Arizona loaded their two children into a pickup truck to drive their six-year-old son, Jacob, to a hospital because he was ill. A powerful winter storm was raging as they headed toward Phoenix, 70 miles distant, following a desert road they had traveled many times before. But on this day tributaries of the nearby Agua Fria River had already reached flood stage, and the normally dry dirt road was inundated. 

After crossing one section of flooded road, David decided that it was too dangerous to continue, so he turned the truck around to head back. Before them was a 50-foot-wide wash that was now quickly filling with swift-moving water. The truck made it 40 feet across before it was overwhelmed by the current and carried 20 feet downstream. 

Katrina managed to escape to high ground while David moved the children into the relative safety of the truck's bed. A bystander tossed the end of a rope to David, and another witness called for help. Trapped in the truck bed, David was helpless as the floodwaters rose until they covered the roof of the truck. Rescuers arrived, but were unable to reach David and the children. All they could do was stand by and watch the scene unfold. What was really needed was a helicopter, but the weather was too violent for that. 

For two hours, David fought to hold onto his children and to the end of the rope, while the current raged around them. Finally, losing the battle to stay with the truck, David and the children dove toward the nearest shoreline. By some miracle, the little girl, Desiree, made it to shore, where she was snatched to safety by her mother. David and Jacob were swept into a tree downstream, where the father clung to his son against the mighty force of the water. 

Eventually, David lost his grip on Jacob, and his son was swept away to his death. Remarkably, rescuers were separated from the family by the raging torrent until the next day when the water subsided. 

This is a stark and tragic example of the consequences of underestimating the power of moving water. Here are some startling statistics to remember:
  • As little as 6 inches of fast-moving water can sweep a person off his or her feet.
  • One foot of flowing water can move most vehicles off the road.
  • Most flood-related deaths happen at night and are vehicular. 
  • Small stream floods, and those happening in urban areas, often occur in less than one hour. 
Never attempt to drive across a flooded road. It's impossible to determine the condition of the road surface while it is covered by water, and the pavement might already be ripped away, leaving a hole that will swallow your vehicle. The rule is, if you cannot see the road surface or its line markings, do not drive through the water. 

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