Survival Scenario – Flash Flood

It’s been awhile since I’ve given you a survival scenario, so I thought I’d come up with something to make you think over the weekend. Scenario flood Over the past couple of days it’s been raining heavy and the water levels in town are rising dramatically.  Instead of easing off as it has in the past the rain now intensifies and drops ten inches of rain in just a matter of hours. You’re in town and need to get home, so you turn your car and head for the homestead.  As you’re crossing a low area already partially flooded you’re suddenly hit by a wall of water that sweeps your vehicle off the road and presses it up against a tree.  It’s twenty-five yards to shore on one side and thirty yards on the other. The water is rising and you can see people on shore waving at you to get on the roof of your vehicle.  It looks like one of the people may have a rope, but you don’t know how they’re going to get it to you.  You know it’s going to be at least fifteen minutes or maybe longer before someone can get there to help and the water is starting to come in through the windows of the vehicle. Using your own circumstances such as:  kids that might be with you, heart condition, broken leg, sick mother, whatever… What do you do? -Jarhead Survivor
22 comments… add one
  • kevin June 29, 2012, 8:45 am

    get on top of the car and if possible climb up into the tree and wait for help if have kids same thing get em up as far as possible into the tree same thing with a elderly mom NEVER EVER TRY TO CROSS in this situation

  • Spook45 June 29, 2012, 8:49 am

    Heh, IVe lived with this one all of my life. Dont play in the water, if you hv to, move to higher ground.

  • Juliette of OHio June 29, 2012, 10:35 am

    Prepare to drown, I guess. Maybe climb the tree? I’m older (mid-sixties) with severe arthritis, so I would not have crossed the flooded portion to begin with. Every part of the country has seen these floods and I’m amazed that many don’t realize the power of running water. Assuming that I could somehow climb to the roof of my car, I’d attempt to climb as much of the tree as possible and hope it was firmly rooted. Trees can be washed out, as well. I would not want to endanger the man with the rope. If he had lots of training, and I could hang on, it’s barely possible he could pull me to shore, but I’d prefer that he call for help from a trained rescue unit.

  • Jason June 29, 2012, 10:42 am

    Growing up on the Pacific Ocean & surfing most of my life, I wouldn’t be too concerned about making it to shore because I have been in some extreme high surf conditions & even rescued some people over the years. If my little guy (7 years old) was with me, I’d have him swim next to me or load him on my back & go to shore.

    If it was a true flash flood & I was caught in the middle of it, I would leave the car because it will only get worse & would swim with the current AND towards the shore or side – even if it drug me a mile down stream. Fighting it or panicking is THE worst thing to do.

    That being said, Spook is somewhat right – don’t screw around with unstable water conditions.

  • irishdutchuncle June 29, 2012, 10:43 am

    i finally get my jalopy running again, and i’m about to lose it in a flood. it’s always something.

    first things first. i’ll “roll” down the windows before the electrical system dies. my key ring is tethered to my belt with a chain i made from a cheap dog leash. i will make sure they’re still securely attached to myself. i will “put it in park”, grab my keys, make sure i have my wallet, then stop. i will take some deep breaths, letting them out slowly as possible, in an effort to fight panic.

    there may be things in the trunk that would be useful in this situation, whether i try to get any of them, will depend on the strength of the current. my other inclination is toward climbing the tree. (since it’s strong enough to hold back the car, but for how long?)

    i have 100′ of thin nylon rope in my BOB. depending on which jacket i’m wearing, maybe i have para-cord in my pocket. if i have some line, i would tie off securely to the steering wheel, then form a loop on the other end, to make a handhold. (or tie off the other end to my hiking staff, if i have it… making sure i have a sharp knife with me to cut the rope if necessary) i would then re-assess my situation. i may do nothing further, but wait it out on top of the car. if i need to move, i will set out against the current toward the next safest spot i can reach.

    • irishdutchuncle June 29, 2012, 11:06 am

      if i have the para-cord, there’s a good chance i also have my work gloves. i’d put them on to reduce wear and tear on my hands. there’s a five gallon steel “jeep” gas can in the trunk. (usually empty) i may want to try using it as a float. as Juliet suggested above, i don’t want to put the “people with the rope” at any risk to try saving me. i shouldn’t have driven into any water in the first place.

      • irishdutchuncle June 29, 2012, 11:15 am

        …sorry, Juliette. I should learn to spell if i get myself out of this mess.

    • irishdutchuncle June 29, 2012, 9:41 pm

      … and remembering that you can be swept off your feet, by just a few inches of fast moving water, it is essential that anyone reading what i say, not pay any attention.

      there would be no way to stand against that much water, even with the hiking staff. some combination of what “smokechecktim” and “Jason” said might work. going with the current is appropriate for getting out of rip-tides also.

      yeh, what megamom said. i saw some video of a swiftwater rescue. the guy was holding onto a rope, and the current was strong enough to strip off his pants. moving water has awesome power.

    • Michael June 29, 2012, 10:29 pm

      “first things first. i’ll “roll” down the windows before the electrical system dies.”

      I never thought about it that way, but I guess that’s one advantage my car has: non-electric windows!

      • irishdutchuncle June 29, 2012, 11:47 pm

        it really shouldn’t be something to worry about in fresh water. it might be a problem along coastal areas. salt water is pretty conductive.
        the “window breaking hammer” is kept in the “wifemobile”. (primary BOV) we liked everything else about the car, so we didn’t reject it, over the power windows.

        i don’t want/can’t afford two car payments, so i keep a “beater” for my own use. lately they’ve all had power windows…

  • noisynick June 29, 2012, 11:52 am

    stick with the tree and the car if a 10 ft wall of water hit and it didn’tt roll the car then theres a good chance whats behind the wall is less not more in height. Look for something to tie off with to tree if necessarry. Definitely wouldn’t swim for shore its not the water but the debris in the water that will drowned you, even power swimmer can’t take a log to the head. being tangled in whatever is being washed along.
    Since people know your in trouble rescue help will arrrive in a timely manner usually.
    Now if this were in the Dark at 1 or 2 am things might be alot different.
    It seems I always have children in my care attending there safety would be paramount so I wouldn’t be doing the enter flooded creek anyway to easy to wait it out somewhere.

    • Jason June 29, 2012, 12:51 pm

      It’s a self perpetuating undertow combined with panic that drowns most people. The debris is a concern because it will bang you around but you can mitigate it by swimming with the current which also saves energy.

  • smokechecktim June 29, 2012, 1:20 pm

    water is already coming through the windows… I would try a two step approach. First out and on the the roof. stay on the roof and out of the water as long as you can, help from shore may arrive. If the roof becomes unsafe I would treat it as a swift water self rescue…let the current take you downstream, feet facing downstream and together, move toward shore staying away from any partially submerged trees or snags.

  • megamom June 29, 2012, 4:40 pm

    First, I would have avoided this situation entirely. “Turn around, don’t drown”, but seeing as I’ve gotten myself into this mess….

    Unfortunately I always am travelling with a 18 month old and a three year old. I probably have just killed them. First unbuckle and get into the back seat. Unbuckle both tots. If I feel I have enough time I may pull off my pants and /or shirt. Then get kids to hang onto me while I loop and knot the material around us. Now I have to wait for the pressure to equalize so I can get the door open. I won’t be able to fit through a window with them stuck to me (luckily they hang on like little monkeys when they are scared).
    I would go for the door on the tree side so the water wouldn’t be rushing against it as long as it is not wedged shut by the tree. Otherwise I’d have to take the other side. Try to get to the roof of the car or hang on to the tree or low branches. Wait for help- professionals, not random dude with rope.
    Expect pictures of lady in her underwear in newspaper next morning. Save my children or die trying.

  • Michael June 29, 2012, 9:27 pm

    Don’t get in the water, it will pin you down and drown you.

    I’d climb onto the roof of my car and into the tree.

    The “rescuers” on shore are just going to get someone killed, wait for the pros to get there.

    I drive a hatchback and can get into the trunk area where the spare tire and some para-cord is from inside the car. I might be able to rig up something to help me stay in the tree or give me a little floatation if I do get swept away. But, my focus would be on getting out of the car and into the tree as quickly as possible.

  • iowaprepper June 30, 2012, 3:39 am

    Out the window and onto the top of the car or into the tree with my 12 year old daughter, if she’s with me. Then either wait for the pro rescuers to get us or if the water is getting too high swim for it….nearest “shore” with the current. As a possiblity have the guy with the rop tie it off to a tree and then get it to me where I can tie it off to my tree so we can use it to get away without endangering anyone. If there’s nothing for him to tie the rope off to then maybe if there are enough people there to anchor…say a min of 5. Wouldn’t try that unless I figured that we COULDN’T last long enough on top of the car or in the tree. If i’m alone I would be more likely to risk it than if my daughter is with me.

  • Chuck June 30, 2012, 9:39 am

    I would be alone, never had any kids.
    I’d get what I can, back seats fold down so I have access to trunk.

    Prolly get paper to write a phone# on (largely)so I can show it to those people and they can call me if the phone is still dry.

    If this tree is large and safe enough I might just pick out the camp hammock, string it up and relax for a while and have a snack..

    Not in ay rush, take my time and evaluate the options available.
    Unlikely Any bones were broken, far more likely to happen to anyone trying to swim to safety as you have no idea what’s under that water.

    Worst case my dog might be with me, I’d have to hoist her up into the tree and hammock.

  • child of Odin July 1, 2012, 6:05 pm

    Hmm, good comments. Have to add, if rope guy has no trees, he probably has a car to tie off to. I’d stay on the roof until it became untenable Thingy move to tree, until it looked like giving. Then what Jason and the others said, swim, with the current, using anything I could for flotation. Pants will work, tie the leg holes shut, her wet and fill with air, then fold top to trap air. Get between the legs and tuck them under your arms
    Taught to me by Uncle Sam, even though I played in the sandbox, not the jungle…might have my kids, and if so, same flotation, tie us together, always have a 550 bracelet anf have a donut in vehical kits. If not major shtf or teowtwaki, leave BOB, otherwise let it float along with us. The empty water bottles in it will keep it afloat (don’t keep water in it, as the temperature extremes here would burst or spoil it. Have several means to purify instead, so just have containers. Water isn’t to hard to fond here). If man with rope can tie a good knot, yet rope to us, would tie end to us and let it swing us in towards shore as we floated down (knife ready). Right now, my wife can’t walk because of a severe compound, multiple break broken ankle. If she were with us, all would be done the same, but we would have to help her onto the roof, tree, and shore, and make sure she was able to stay afloat.

    Good one. Been thinking a lot about options, because of wife’s foot. It changes how we would real with a lot of emergencies.

  • JL July 1, 2012, 9:14 pm

    I grew up in Tucson so I know how dangerous flash floods can be. I would roll windows down unbuckle seat belts have my 10 year old climb on the roof. After that i would wait for resucue unless I could climb in a tree. My car is low to the ground so I might be SOL. I would make sure the kids are taken care of first.

  • izzy July 2, 2012, 2:59 am

    Good points already (window puncture hammer w/ seatbelt cutter, rope tied to tree, debris, current too strong to “hold on to” anything.

    A few things learned in Pacific NW: Flash flooding is muddy – no visibility. Current is turbulent – think river rafting times 1000. Finally, help may NOT be on the way immediately – probably other rivers/creeks have surged too. Not that you shouldn’t hang on, but:

    Have a warmer fleece layer, could use a belt to hold onto tree or kids (no, not dependable – but better than nothing). Remember paracord/rope may seem to be ‘rated’ to the weight of a person – but gravity or current increase it exponentially. Keep a waterproof LED light on you – you may be swept downstream after dark. Grab something that floats if you can (can a car cushion be used as a floatation device? ;)

    [P.S. There’s a neat YouTube video of flash flood in Asia, and the people just yanked bamboo out of the ground and used those light long poles to fish out everyone – no deaths]

  • lateToTheParty July 2, 2012, 3:26 pm

    Izzy has a good point – help is on the way, just likely, not soon. I grew up on the coast and have dealt with riptides and rough weather (not floods, agreed) so I have less fear of the water but my real fear is the weight of the car on the tree. The tree was apparently doing ok before but now you have 2 -3 tons of vehicle trying to wash with the flood and trying to take the tree with it.

    Depending on how close the shore is, if their vehicles are close enough, I can grab my jack and paracord and toss it to land, tie off to the tree and use that to ford the water. If no cars or trees, I’d hang on the roof till the tree/car started to give way then head into the current – dive off the car towards the shore (to get away from the moving car/tree) then ride or swim with the current.

    I agree that avoiding this place in the first place is important but this may have been the best chance you have – all other routes may have been far worse. I have no little ones so I’m not immediately necessary to my family and I’m likely to stick where I work and bring my bob in rather than chance flood conditions. If I was out and about and it turned bad, I can see the above situation.

    Scary situation. Sad that bad things have to happen to get our attention, but I think the wife may be coming around to prepping, at least in terms of planning and have some supplies. No Zombie Event level preps, but better than it was – I saw an opportunity and asked her “If we were in the path of the wildfire (in Colorado) and it was headed in the path of family (we would normally go to), what would we do? Go to Memphis? Go to Virginia? …” She was stumped and we gently hammered out a few answers to the question. Plan 1, created – plans 2-100 to go!

  • T.R. July 3, 2012, 1:12 pm

    Floods , fires , civil unrest , etc .
    this is why its important to have an INCH bag handy . I know a lot of folks think thats too much of a luxury to be burdened with but when its all over and your starting over ……….and we will all be starting over in one form or another , the things of sentimental value that you saved to be passed on to the next generation ………are beyond value .


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