Sunday, January 3, 2016

Turn Around, Don't Drown

I wrote a few days ago about the flooding in our area. All the roads in the St. Louis area are now open but the Mississippi and Meramec Rivers won't  be below flood stage for another two weeks.  Luckily, the Missouri river in my town is expected to be below flood stage in the next day or two.  

I feel so sorry for all the folks who have lost their homes or who are facing huge repair bills; some for the second time.  As we drove around town today we realized that the number of people who suffered wet basements was far greater than we expected.  Folks are getting their trash out for tomorrow’s pickup and most blocks had at least one pile of damaged carpet and soaked drywall at the curb.  There are several on our street and we have not hauled ours out yet.  

Seeing this photo took me back to the 1982 flood when a girlfriend, our children and I were caught in a rising creek.  We had been out to lunch at a Denny’s in our area that had a usually dry creek behind it. We were in my friend's car and she was driving. It had been raining for several days, but, not thinking about high water, my friend drove around the back of the restaurant to exit onto the side street and we suddenly found ourselves driving through what appeared to be only inches of water but, soon had us floating down the parking lot.  A couple of hairdressers from the business next door were taking a smoke break on their back stoop.  They saw us float by and called the fire department.  When they arrived water was already up to our seats.  The firefighters strung a rope from dry land to the car.  A fireman in waders with water up around his waist approached my side of the car and told us he was going to open the car door.  He said we would only have a minute or two for the four of us to exit the car, grab the rope and follow it to shore.  The car was a small Trans Am with a console between the front seats.  My friend weighed almost 300 lb. and she began yelling there was no way she could climb over the console and out the car regardless of how much time they gave her. She insisted they open her door and let the skinny people do the climbing.  The fireman explained that given the direction of the current we didn’t stand a chance of being rescued doing it her way. He counted to three, opened my door, and water rushed into the car.  The kids and I were out and hand walking the rope to the dry pavement in a flash.  The whole way I expected to hear my friend was drowning in the car.  But, when I got to where I could look back I was surprised to find her being pulled along in the flowing water by two firemen.  Obviously, once the water came into the car she found the motivation to climb out of that car before it floated downstream.   It was several days before her car was found and declared a total loss.  While I felt bad for my friend I was shamefully grateful that  it had not been my turn to drive that day. 

Those signs“Turn around, don’t drown” that you see a lot  around here certainly was emblazoned in my memory that day and I learned its lesson the hard way.   

1 comment:

  1. What a sobering experience, Rita!
    Until I moved to Phoenix, I never fully understood the concept of flash floods ... but news coverage of water rescues during our monsoon season has made a believer out of me. Thank God, all of you made it out safely!