“Split Seconds Between Life And Death” is the introduction of surviving a devastating flash flood in a blink…of a split second.
Double-click the photos and newspaper article to enlarge them for reading the small print and seeing the details…most of the pictures were taken before I had a digital camera.
The morning of August 5th seemed like a typical summer morning as we rolled out of bed at the crack of dawn, stumbling to the kitchen for our first pot of very strong coffee to get the cobwebs out of our heads to plan the day.
We sipped the dark caffeine as we watched the sun rise into a clear, beautiful blue sky morning…promising to be another warm sunny day in the hay fields.
Due to the isolation of the ranch we managed on the Crooked River and the location of a mountain full of iron that was close to the house…we could not pick up radio signals or television to hear the news and the weather forecast. Unknown to us, there were several weather warnings for August 5th…and the possibility for severe storms on top of the mountains behind us. The summer day seemed perfect that morning…who could imagine that a massive wall of water would be building and rolling toward our home and our lives, later that afternoon, traveling at 15 mph or more with certain death, if caught in it. This is my story and account of what I saw and felt that fateful summer day, when we had a few split seconds between life and death…with our life being turned upside down in a matter of minutes, by the end of the day.
And so it begins…
After lunch we were sitting out on our deck when, Wild Bill mentioned to his hay crew to keep an eye on the sky. He noted that clouds had been building the last few hours on top of the mountains behind us…they looked ominous and were spinning in an odd way, like they were coming from different directions running into each other.
Heading out the door, back to the hay fields, WB said “If you see lightning or the weather changes, park the equipment and come into the headquarters,” which was our home. I was headed to Prineville, 35 miles away, for a doctor appointment, as I had been kicked a few days earlier in my lower abdomen by a young three-year old horse that packed a hard powerful punch that ripped my jeans where she kicked and it had not gotten any better…instead it turned into a combination of several colors, much like the clouds in the photo below. I looked four months pregnant from the swelling, and could not zip up my wranglers all the way and it hurt to move or walk fast.
As the afternoon wore on, I watched as more clouds were developing behind us in the Maury Mountains…my gut intuition told me to not go and to stay home so I made different arrangements for my doctor appointment. I heard thunder far away towards the mountains, and as time passed, I could tell it was coming our way…
And soon the thunder was on top of us…with lightening all around…and then drops of rain began to fall. I began to worry about Wild Bill and our two sons who were also part of the hay crew. Time began to speed up and before I knew what was happening, in a split second our life was spinning out of control between life and death.
Tick-tock…fractured moments…tick-tock…life and DEATH…tick…RUN…tock…wall of WATER…no time…RUN…your LIFE…NO TIME…move…NOW…GET OUT OF THE HOUSE…RUN!
Split seconds in a heartbeat, become moments in your life that you will never forget…and on that warm humid summer day, I did not know what I was escaping from, when my husband yelled and I ran out of the house in my socks, despite the wet ground from the rain we were now getting…carrying my boots…with Wild Bill frantically yelling “MOVE…HURRY…NOW” as I jumped into a moving pick up that was already backing up in reverse…and then…I saw the wall of water coming directly towards us and our house. Once we were safe on higher ground, we watched in stunned silence as the roar of raging flood waters hit the ranch.
In a matter of seconds, our focus was on a 200′ wide by 7′ deep river of flood water moving at 15 mph or more, engulfing our lives…our house, our horses, our vehicles, the equipment and buildings…we saw the entire ranch move as we stood helplessly by. Witnessing a D5 Caterpillar tractor with the blade parked down in the gravel, walking itself out of the quickly deteriorating equipment shed that was attached to the shop…the tractor was bobbing, floating, bouncing and dancing with the energy of the flood waters like it was a toy.
At daybreak, the following morning after the flood, Wild Bill and I walked through the war zone of what was left of the ranch where the battle was fought…showing the power and might of the water. The lone stock truck ended its journey through the flood waters settling into the mud, where the 50′ by 50′ barn “used” to stand, before it disintegrated with the forceful blast of flood water…it happened so fast, none of us saw it collapse…and yet the smaller barn survived and was left standing alone…it became the “Miracle Barn.” Every building on the ranch either disintegrated upon impact or if left standing, leaned in a different way or moved with the jarring force of the flood water when it slammed into the complex, rolling over anything or anyone in its path.
Loosing the life of the young cowboy, who was passing through on his way home, trying to save his horses, was the hardest and most difficult part of our grief…fractured moments of a human life, painful memories we will never forget. The State Of Oregon did numerous studies of the massive flood for several years. How could this happen and why…could it happen again…the environmental conditions that played a part…the odd weather and the rain storm that caused the flood…on a warm summer day in August, as we were baling and putting up hay…a typical ranch life one second and a nightmare the next.
Surviving the flood with God’s protection was evidenced by Wild Bill being aware of the clouds looking ominous at lunch…he kept watching them through out the afternoon as the weather was changing quickly…and thankfully he came home into the headquarters as it had barely begun to sprinkle with rain, along with lightning and thunder…and then, he saw the wall of water coming at us in time to escape…that was God’s provision.
Our horses lived through the flood…they were close to where we were safe, but I could not reach them which was awful! Thankfully God heard my prayers and spared them from death but not from the fear they felt.
I’ll be sharing a few more chapters on the flood in the coming weeks…the many memories and the miracles…I hope my story of survival will give you strength and hope…knowing that life can at times be unexpected and incredibly tough but we can do it…we just have to keep on a going, no matter what!
Stay tuned for Chapter 1 of the “Historic 100 Year Flood”…HRCG over and out for now but not for long!