Wednesday, June 20, 2018

It's been a busy several months

This spring, once it arrived, has brought forth much rain.  So far, this summer is following suit.

Flooding across the region has been widespread with varying consequences, depending on location. Sometimes there has been only a short distance between a brief rain shower and torrential downpours that brought flash flooding and washed out roads.

As a member of my county's Swift Water Rescue team, we have been busy in ways that are atypical for us.  Our typical call volume is recreational tubers and rafters getting into trouble on the rivers.
The local geography, with two major rivers, typically lends itself to pretty rapid drainage with minimal flooded roads.  Exception being the roads adjacent to the rivers which flood all the time.

In the ten years I've lived in the area, this is the first year I have seen water rolling like a river down some roads, or flowing over certain roads for days on end. 
Several weeks ago, we were dispatched to go two counties away to assist them with flash flooding.  It happens so rarely in that area that they did away with what minimal resources they had years ago, because those resources never got used.  While en-route, we had our own rescues dispatched that our minimal staffing that stayed behind had to mitigate.

All that rain in the neighboring county came to us a day later in the form of river crests that haven't been seen since 2010.  Fortunately we did not see more rain during this period, as the local emergency management heads had been dragging their feet.  We instituted a door-to-door resident check/ accountability exercise in several neighborhoods that were cut off by the flooded rivers.  This should have been done 2-3 days prior.

The high river levels have given a slow start to this year's river recreational use.  The local outfitters have been running their rafting trips, but tubing has been at a minimum.  The white water kayakers have been out in force, but they seldom need our assistance.

This past weekend has been making up for lost time, it seems.
Friday morning we were dispatched for a boat stuck on a rock.  We arrived on scene to find two people in a jon boat in an area of rapids.  They had been fishing in slack water.  Don't know exactly what happened or the sequence, but they had a motor malfunction and the current took them into the rapids where they got hung up on a rock.  They had no oars and their pfd's were just enough to keep from getting a ticket from DNR.  As we started the transfer of the first person from their boat to ours, the buoyancy of course changed and their boat started moving, so we had the 2nd person hop on our boat.  It floated past us and lodged onto another rock.  In an uglier spot.  We tried to retrieve it after getting the two subject to shore but were unsuccessful.  It was not worth risking our lives and beating up our boat.

Saturday brought forth three rescue calls.
The first was a report of a man with a dog struggling in the river.  As it turned out, he was swimming with his Chihuahua when something took the dog under.  That's when he started yelling for help.  Who takes their Chihuahua swimming?  In a river?!  He self extricated and didn't need our help.  I'm unsure if he ever found his dog.  I suspect something had a big lunch.
Second call of the day was a report of a person on a rock in a gnarly part of the river.  It was soon reported to be two, then three, then five.
Short story, (I know, too late!) three young girls had been rock hopping.  They mis-stepped or slipped and the current carried them downstream about 200 yards to the rock they were able to climb.  Two guys that were would-be rescuers heard them and waded/ swam to them.  That area has a lot of rock with deep pools and swift current.  We had a foot- entrapment body recovery two years ago only a few dozen yards away from these girls.
As we were making ready to get our boats out of the water at the conclusion of the call, we were dispatched for another disabled boater call on the other end of the county.  We responded, but our boat was not deployed.  A boat from a stand-by team deployed and retrieved the disabled boaters.  A young guy and girl, likely local college students, in a woefully under-equipped flat bottom boat got into some trouble.  I did not see the location or situation, but they looked very relieved to be back to the boat ramp.

Given the activity level of Saturday, Sunday was surprisingly quiet, call wise.  Maybe people were being responsible in respect of Fathers Day.  Ha ha.  Not likely.
We still had a full afternoon, though.  Seemingly last minute, we were requested to provide some staged rescue activity for another volunteer recruitment video.
Our county received a grant from somewhere about a year ago for volunteer fire department member recruitment.  One video has already been done and now they are doing another.
It was somewhat fun and the weather was good to be on the water.

Last night we were requested to assist in the search for a missing person.  Foul play is not being ruled out.
I felt that our efforts were a bit of an exercise in futility, as our search area didn't have any real basis of information.  We did, however, inspect an RV that was found in the river.  From all evidence, it was dropped there by the floodwaters the other week, carried as of yet unknown miles to where it was laid to rest.  It had tags from the neighboring state.


  1. I must say that the weather has kept me from feeling bad about missing out on a few weeks of kayaking. The rivers have been way beyond anything I'd mess with.