Tag Archives: Flash flood

Row Row Row Your Camper…

So, how was your Monday? Mine was more eventful than usual. More eventful than I would have preferred really.

It started out perfectly normal, a little laundry, a little work. Catching up on things that had fallen behind over the weekend. Marty had gotten his work done early and come home, and a friend had stopped by for a bit. I don’t think she planned to stay as long as she did, but then it started raining. Then it started raining even harder, a torrential abnormal rain, something we hadn’t seen before. We all sat inside watching the rain, waiting it out and subsequently watching the creek rise… really fast. Way faster than it should have been. It was a pretty amazing sight to be honest, the water rushing and swelling in the creek.

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The creek starting to rise

I had started taking pictures out the windows when we noticed the site next to us had started to hold water as well… a couple of inches had crept onto their car tires. That’s not unusual really, that site has a tendency to hold water in any rain, so it wasn’t a huge red flag.

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Site behind us taking on water

In hindsight we should have done things a little differently, but no one expected what happened next. The creek is deep and rain fed, it rises and falls on a regular basis, and stays well within the confinement of it’s walls. But still, it was rising so fast. Within what felt like 30 minutes it had risen higher than I’ve ever seen it. And then it happened.

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I don’t remember taking this picture. The creek has broken over, this is our front yard.

The creek in front of our site broke over it’s banks. It was a couple of inches of water when we noticed it, and our company decided to make a break for it before the road was covered any more. As she left there was a steady flow of shallow creek water flowing over our site, and it was at that point we realized we had to go…. now.

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Within minutes of starting to flood

I changed out of my shorts into a pair of jeans, because apparently my refusal to wear shorts when it’s raining knows no bounds. I tried to pull on sneakers but Marty hollered from the kitchen that we needed to hurry, so I threw my flip flops back on instead. Realizing there was no way I would leave my animals, and not knowing what was about to happen, Marty grabbed one dog while I grabbed the other and the cat.

This whole process probably didn’t take 30 seconds, but when we stepped out the door of the camper we met a foot of dirty rushing water. I don’t remember seeing anything except our rug floating on top of the water.

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Going back to help

I was scared I would be trapped, that my bug was too low to the ground and would float instead of driving out. As we ran to separate ends of the Turtle I heard Marty yell that it would be fine and to hurry, so I somehow yanked open the car door with an animal in each arm and flung them inside, backed up just enough to turn and quickly found the shortest path to high ground. I’m pretty sure that path was diagonally across the grass, but at that point in time I couldn’t see it, and I also didn’t particularly care. All I wanted to do was get to the gravel before the car started floating, and it was probably 150′ from where I was. So I took the path of least resistance, both literally and figuratively… the water was rushing the same direction I was going.

I pulled up to the main building before Marty, who had driven his truck and mowing trailer back alongside what used to be the creek, using the posts on the side of the road to guide him. We left the dogs in the car, and not really knowing what else to do we took off back into the water to see if our neighbor needed help, since he hadn’t left his site. By this time it was above our knees and flowing hard across the whole bottom half of the campground. My flip flops made it slow going, and I was really wishing I had opted for sneakers and shorts instead of my jeans.

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Some of the breaking waves

It was still pouring rain at this point, and the water just kept rising. It’s hard to fathom that much water in one place, much less rushing as fast as it was across the park. I don’t know if describing it, or even showing the pictures, does it justice. We waded back to our neighbors camper to find out he either hadn’t noticed the water coming up or wasn’t sure what to do, but by then it was too late to do much. Marty was able to drive their car out before any damage was done, but when they tried to drive the motor home out it stalled from the water rushing into the engine. They rode out the rest of the flood inside, hoping the coach didn’t get caught in the current and start to float.

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The water at its deepest

In the process of wading around I ran across a few of our things as they floated by. I pulled one of our bikes from under the front of the neighbors coach and tried to take it to our boat, which was somehow still sitting behind the camper, but it was too fast and too deep and I had to let it go. I tripped over our wire dog fence and thought for a minute I had done some serious damage to a toe, but it turned out to be fine. By then it was too much and I had to leave before the water started to push me away. Large chunks of wood that were holding down our rug started to pass me and I headed to high ground again.

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We didn’t park in the river…

We stood and watched the water rise for what felt like forever, but I think it might have been less than 30 agonizing minutes. It rose to within inches of the floor of our camper, lapping up six inches on the side facing the creek. We didn’t know yet if it had gotten inside, or how much more it would rise before it started to fall, and I thought for sure at least the basement had to be full of nasty water. For a brief moment my adrenaline dropped and I started to break down, but I regained my composure and remembered even if it had flooded it was just stuff that we could replace.

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Our yard after the water started to recede

We were able to wade around and stand on the porch of the cabins that sit behind our spot, where I took video of the water rushing only an inch or so below the porch floor of the little house. It was breaking in waves, foaming and rushing through and around everything, like we were instantly in the middle of a swift moving river. It was dirty muddy water, full of things from the hills and houses up the road.

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Gravel island

And then it started to drop. The rain stopped, and the water started easing away as quickly as it had come in.

We were finally able to make it around the stalled coach to our spot, which sits slightly higher than the land around it so it had become a small island by then. Marty was able to go around the front of the coach but the force of the water being sucked underneath it was too much for me and I had to find another route.

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Furniture jammed under the trailer

We made it to the gravel island that used to be our grassy front yard and surveyed the damage as the water still ran around us… the grill and picnic table had been washed against the Turtle, which itself had been shifted a foot or more but still sat on it’s blocks. The boat, amazingly, didn’t float away. It filled with water and sat steady, moving only a couple of feet. Our chairs, table and rug had jammed underneath the camper, folding up and lodging themselves against the underbelly. Somehow even the motor for the boat, which had been sitting underneath the camper to stay dry (I know right?) had caught itself on an outrigger and managed to not float away.

Then we were finally able to make it to the door. I tentatively opened it and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Bone dry! Our basement still had to be flooded I thought, but everything in it still sat just like nothing at all had gone on outside. Thank goodness for good gaskets. Say that three times fast.

I think it took a few minutes after the water had receded for me to fully comprehend what was going on. A friend came by after the water was gone to see if we needed help, but I was mostly just wandering around in the gravel yard, trying to remember what everything had looked like an hour earlier. Trying to remember what was sitting where.

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The view after we moved

In the end we only lost trivial things, we found our bikes on the other end of the park lodged in the tree line, although I think they might be trashed. We pulled out another neighbors cooler and propane tank from the same place. We haven’t found the grandbaby’s big wheel, one of our propane tanks, our doormat, and the yellow flower pot that my rose once lived in. Nothing that will make one bit of difference in the long run. We were able to get ourselves and the animals out, which is all that really matters. And as an added bonus we were able to save the cars.

I think the thing I wish I could find the most though is my turtle candle holder. It was this little cheap ceramic guy with a colorful shell, with little colorful jewels buried in it. I bought it in Orange Beach the same year we watched the sea turtles hatch on the beach, sort of as a way to commemorate the event. I had written the date on the bottom and everything. I always kept it sitting on the table at the house and it’s sat on our table since we moved. He had a spot for a little votive candle on the top of his shell, and oddly enough his candle was laying under the camper unscathed. Every time I’ve gone outside since yesterday (was that really just yesterday?) I’ve looked in every pile of grass and gravel for him, but I think he’s probably long gone now. Not that I’ll stop looking.

So… that was our Monday. Not what we expected in the slightest yesterday morning. It was actually a really nice day with only a 30% chance of any rain at all. Apparently that 30% was all right here. We had 3.75″ of rain in less than 90 minutes. After walking around today it looks like the water at it’s deepest point, where it ran under the interstate bridge, would have been above my neck.

More storms moved through last night and we stayed up to watch the creek since it was already swollen. But today we’ve moved to a different spot, I’m finally clean and dry, and we’re hoping to actually get some sleep tonight.

We think we may move back to the corner lot when it gets leveled back out, it really is the best spot in the place for us, and supposedly what happened yesterday has only happened one other time in the history of this campground. I have to admit it makes me a little skittish, but I now have a more healthy respect for what we had considered a shallow wet weather creek, and I know what to watch for. I don’t want to sacrifice such a great site because of a freak weather incident that might not happen again for as long as we’re here.

What do you think? Would you go back? Did you have an exciting Monday or did you get to finish your laundry?

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