Floods: Don’t go in them.

As an archaeologist, my expertise in the cognate field of geology includes fluvial processes, so I know something about floods. And I’ve experienced plenty of floods working in the Hudson and Mohawk river valleys … now that I think of it, I’ve got quite a few good flood stories. But the most significant experience I’ve had with flooding happened in about a foot of water.

It was in the Congo, at Senga, a location I’ve written about before. Our camp was on one side of a wash right where it entered the Semliki River, and the excavation was on the other side of the wash, but since the digging all occurred during the dry(ish) season, that was never an issue. But when the excavation was over, and almost everyone went home, those of us left behind to do our own non-excavation research projects experienced a number of good rains.

One day I had parked the Zodiac on the other side of the dry wash, where it was tied up to a sturdy tree AND pulled fully out of the water. It rained, and I went down to look at the wash to see if it was running, and it was. I realized that the river was rising, so water was lapping at the boat, and the water running into the river from the wash was between me and the vessel. So, I considered crossing the wash to drag the boat farther inland.

Not being a total moron, I first tested the was with a stick to see how deep the water is. If the water was flowing over the surface as I had seen it only that morning, the water could be no more than 12 inches deep. When I stuck the stick into the rushing torrent, I discovered two things: 1) Yes, the water was only about a foot deep and 2) the strength of the water was sufficient to pull the stick out of my hands and drag it at a very high velocity into the river, where it would flow down stream over the rapids, then down the water fall, then into the crocodile infested lake.

I walked the long way around. It took an hour and a half to make it to the boat, and I had to cross through the territories of a pride of lions and a bunch of hyenas, but that was a LOT safer than crossing the one foot deep flood.

And I’m reminded of all of this by this post, which you should visit and read: “I Can Feel The Boulders Rolling”

Do you have a flood story?

Comments

  1. #1 UK Jim
    October 22, 2011

    This from BBC news today (“UK Couple Killed in Flood”) seems relevant
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15414095

  2. #2 Rorschach
    October 22, 2011

    Back in February when we had flooding in Australia, I was driving through a roundabout at night on my way to work, only to find myself in a lake of water all of a sudden. The roundabout was at the bottom of a little hill, and water had pooled in it. Had the car gone out, it would have washed me away.
    Also, I’ve just returned from Bangkok, and was staying along the Chao Phraya river there. Lots of flooding, and riding a boat over a churning maelstrom of a river, with lots of floating weeds and tree branches and stuff, is an adventure in itself.

  3. #3 hoary puccoon
    October 23, 2011

    Well, it wasn’t technically a flood, but my husband did manage to tip the canoe and leave me hanging in a tree when we tried canoeing on the Cele River in France, in May when the river was swollen by Spring rains. We should have paid more attention to the river’s name. Cele means “swift.”

  4. #4 hoary puccoon
    October 23, 2011

    More seriously, it has always bothered me that creationists use flood stories from around the world to “prove” the existence of Noah’s alleged world wide flood.

    Between tsunamis; hurricane storm surges and heavy rains; wide river valleys flooding from snow melt; narrow mountain canyons flooding from summer thunderstorms; and even unusually high tides; it would be easy to “prove” a world-wide flood occurred within the last ten years, by providing flood stories from all over the place. Yet we all know that isn’t true.

  5. #5 Randy Owens
    October 23, 2011

    Well, I’m living near Tucson, Arizona right now, so I’ve seen a few, and had to drive the long way around the block (which means a few miles, out here in the sticks) to get home a few times. I haven’t had any experiences of getting closer than I should have, but of course, we see them on the news all the time (well, during July-September, anyway; our monsoon season).
    And after some Internet legwork, I see that the video linked to is in my neck of the woods cactus, too. I haven’t driven or ridden on that road yet; maybe I’ll go check it out in the next couple of days, just to pinpoint it and see. (I just finished some motorcycle repair, so I’ve been itching to ride around anyway.)
    Yes, Mom, I’ll check the weather forecast first!

  6. #6 MadScientist
    October 23, 2011

    Any fast flowing water is dangerous; it doesn’t have to be a flood. Just the normal creek and river flows when it rains in the mountains can move fast enough to knock you off your feet. I’ve even waled across a few very shallow but fast moving streams (only about ankle deep) and the rushing water excavates the sand as a foot is planted on the ground and quite a bit of force can be felt as a foot comes in contact with the water. People who haven’t grown up in such areas or weren’t taught (and don’t have any sense) just wouldn’t know though. Just look at the number of silly people every year who attempt to drive across a stream as it’s rising.

  7. #7 Lyle
    October 23, 2011

    Here in Texas we have things called low water crossings, where much of a flood puts water over the road. Note that yard sticks are put beside the crossing to show how deep the water is. (In Central Texas these go to 8 feet). There is also an advertising campaign turn around don’t drown. Of course every time it floods a few fools even drive around barriers and need the fire folks to rescue them. These are primarily on secondary roads not on the interstates btw. If you live in Houston you find curb deep standing water common, which is another reason to drive a pickup, since it can make it thru such water (not running standing).

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