Days of our lives drifting through my mind…life is forever…right? Our lives were running out of time with only seconds left…run…run from what? Wait…what? RUN NOW!
Looking back now, the images seem almost surreal. Everything that happened to us, happened in a matter of seconds. We were all players, fulfilling our roles in this real life and death drama…only it was our life and death drama and it was very real. We survived the unusual flash flood, the timing of us all being together was a blessing from above. The flood went down in history due to the massive amount of water and debris, calling it a historic 100 year flash flood.
This post is a bit different as it picks up where the last one left off but I have added more photos of the flood’s destruction. I will tell part of the story and add a picture, describing what the picture is…hopefully you will be able to follow along as I pick up the story where we left off.
As soon as son Greg went out to see what Mike was talking to Wild Bill about, Travis and I began searching for the fuse box as our power was surging, and we worried about our computer and the microwave. We located it in the center of the house, at the base of the stairs, and we were discussing which was the main switch, when we heard Wild Bill yelling at us, something about “Get out of the house NOW!” For maybe half a second we looked at each other and Travis asked me if I knew what Dad said? I said no but whatever Dad said it is serious and we have to get out of the house as fast as we can!
As we ran back through the house to the mud room, we grabbed our boots and ran down the long hallway into the garage, finally making it outside, running in our socks which were now wet and muddy. The above photo is the flood damage to the back of the garage we ran out of…as the flood hit the garage less than 15 seconds after we ran out…blowing the back out. Wild Bill was frantic as he yelled for us to “HURRY UP”, the pick up with WB, Mike and Greg was about 50′ away from Travis and I. Mike was in the driver’s seat of the pick up with it in reverse, Greg was on the flatbed of the pick up and WB was at the passenger door waving his arms and yelling for us to run! The moment was total chaos.
Wild Bill had seen a wall of water, coming directly towards us…150 yards from the house…he figured we had seconds to escape sudden death. The only reason that our RV Trailer and my pick up Della did not float away was an abandoned satellite pole that wedged them up against the garage. You can see the same hole in the back of the garage…seconds mattered for all of us to survive. The amount of debris in the flood waters was as deadly as the water was.
I remember running and feeling the pain in my stomach and the rocks under my wet and muddy feet, with Travis running beside me and the panic we felt. I saw the fear in Wild Bill and Mike…I still had no idea what was wrong. I just knew it was a life and death situation. Finally we made it to the truck, which was parked about where the red three-wheeler is in the picture above. Mike already had the truck in reverse and was moving it as we reached them, Bill was yelling at Mike to not leave us. Travis bailed on the back of the truck with Greg, and I bailed into the front seat between Mike and WB. In the split second that I bailed into the truck, I saw what we were all running from. It was the most horrible sight I had ever seen! A wall of water rolling towards us that was huge, muddy and very wide, in a blink of a second it was now bearing down on us…hitting the front of the pick up as we were backing up and out of the way. In one more frantic effort, Wild Bill tried to reach for our puppy Hank. He was right by the door of the pick up…Bill missed and I figured I would never see Hank again as I choked back tears.
In the above picture, the ranch had a full set of working corrals, built to last using railroad posts set in concrete to anchor them into the ground…the power of the water not only took the railroad posts but also the concrete. There was a concrete runway poured and built for the cattle to go through and it was gone too…all the concrete was scrubbed off the face of the earth and only deep muddy mud and debris was left.
Mike kept backing the pick up until we were up above the water in the hay stack area, just above the road. He slammed on the brakes and we all just sat there watching this massive wall of water engulf everything on the ranch before our eyes. I don’t know how long we sat there in silence…we eventually got out of the pick up and stood there watching the horror of it all. I remember trying to pull on my boots over wet socks…I was in a panic. There are two kinds of panic…one is the panic that you react and do something…but this was a panic that you felt frozen in, unable to do anything.
In the above picture you can see our white four horse trailer, the red and yellow bale wagon, our flatbed trailer with my horse walker on it…WB’s welding trailers…balers and lots of expensive equipment. None of it was parked out there when the flood hit…all the equipment was parked at either the shop or the house about a 1/2 to 1/4 mile away.
The raging water looked as wide as the Columbia River. It was a torrent of water, that bubbled and boiled over everything in its path. It was deep and was moving very swift. The sound was a deafening roar…and it kept coming and coming. It appeared to be about 200′ feet wide and 8-12′ feet deep. We saw the D-5 Caterpillar tractor with the blade parked down into the gravel, come bobbing out of the equipment shed, floating along with all the other equipment…bale wagons, balers, pick ups, horsetrailers, welders, welders on trailers, and trucks, the water kept coming and sweeping everything away in front of us. The Caterpillar floated/bobbed along about 20 yards…with the water going underneath it…moving it and then dropping it. I saw the horses behind the equipment shed go under the water as the water went over the top of the shop roof…I saw the five yearlings next to our house get tossed away with the powder river steel panels…they were gone along with several other young horses in the corrals behind the yearlings. When the water hit them, it hit so hard that it swept the horses upstream…up the Crooked River.
The house would be to the left of this photo…where you see the green grass with the yellow tin etc. next to it is where we set up the individual horse stalls with our steel panels, for the 5 yearlings that I was working with. When the force of the flood hit…the yearlings in the 5 paneled stalls, and the other horses in the corrals behind them vanished…I did not know if they would swim out or if they would be lost.
Then we noticed the big 50′ by 50′ barn was gone, none of us saw it go down…it was completely disintegrated. All the vehicles were floating, our crew cab flatbed one ton pick up was floating and our crew cab one ton dually was floating with it….our four horse horsetrailer was gone already and on the way to the Crooked River. The water washed one of the Freightliner semi trucks some 200 yards and it took the bale wagon, flatbed trailers, welding trailers, balers, tractors, the huge cattle trailer…everything on that ranch either moved or disintegrated. Three 500 gallon barrels filled with fuel were tossed about like they were empty….
The entire corral system was gone…cement foundation and all. The two chutes that were set in concrete…were gone like it had never been there before. The force of the water wrapped the powder river steel panels around the harrow bed…if you are not familiar with powder river or noble steel panels, these are heavy-duty steel panels and gates made out of steel, the water was so powerful, the force of it bent the panels around various things like toothpicks. We watched as the ranch owner’s 12′ by 24′ tack room, that was built on skids, float away….finally coming to rest on the banks of the Crooked River…a good half mile from its original place.
I was worried that the house would go anytime. It was a 100 year old house that was not built on a foundation. It was now surrounded by swirling, deep, muddy raging water. If the house goes we loose everything….all our family heritage…our life of photos and special things that made us a family and made us who we are. And our kitty cats Zoo and Morris and puppy Hank…they were part of us too.
By now every horse I was taking care of was unaccounted for, about 16 horses, except the two we owned. They were in the pasture next to the house and the road was between us…I could not reach them as the road was on lower ground and under water…they kept moving closer to us as they were belly deep in the water now. They were looking and searching out of instinct for higher ground but it was nowhere to be found. It was so very hard to be so close to them and yet so far away. My mare Lottie just kind of took it in stride as to what was happening but Bill’s horse Odie was younger and was trying to fight the water…he kept spinning around in it until finally he settled down with my mare and they found a high corner close to us that gave them higher ground with more security and comfort being closer to us.
None of us said to much…the water was making a roar and was hard to talk over. I was crying quietly, as it seemed like the end of the world had come and we were all alone, nothing made any sense. With as much water that we were seeing, we thought that one of our water reservoirs had broken up-country above the main ranch…as we had not received much rain. The fear we were all feeling now was that if the reservoir had broken, the young family that worked on the ranch lived right below it, and would be in grave trouble, as they had two small children. And the young couple breaking the polo horses staying above us at the Red House…all we knew at that point was that we had alot of deep water hit us and there were people above us that likely had been hit with it too. At that time the water over the main road was over 3′ deep and we could not get up-country to check on them yet.
I don’t know how long we stood there trying to figure out what to do. After about an hour or so, the water receded enough that Bill and Mike decided to go back over to the house to check on things. I was not in favor of them going because the water was still mid-thigh deep. I don’t know why they went, I think it was because they had to do something and not just stand by. The boys and I waited, I don’t think we said much as there were no words to say.
By now there were many neighbors and people gathered out on the main highway watching, I knew they wanted to help us but they couldn’t get up to where we were because the road was still covered with water. I remember how I wished I could get a message to them to get someone up in a plane to fly up-country to check on the people up there. I felt numb and cold, afraid and in shock, panicked and so deeply mortified by what I had seen. I realized then that we were very lucky to have gotten out of harms way. Things were crazy around me but for that one small moment, I was very thankful that my family was safe and we were alive.
This is the D5 Caterpillar we saw bobbing in the flood waters bouncing and dancing out of the shop, when it was parked with the blade down in the gravel. This tractor is huge and gives you an idea of how forceful the flood waters were.
WB and Mile came back after a few minutes. They said the house appeared to be alright, but the water had blown a hole through the cement wall in the garage…the garage and mud room were under water and mud…and the front porch was full of mud. The only thing that saved the house from going down was the various pieces of equipment that had washed up against it…balers, tractors, shop equipment, trailers…and lots of shrubs.
The large stock trailer hooked on to the red semi, to the left of the picture, had been carried with the flood water into the front of the house where it wedged itself and diverted the water splitting in two directions instead of the water hitting the house full on, as with no foundation the water hitting the house with full on force would have brought it down.
Bill found Hank, our puppy, who was floating on a pile of debris scared to death…but safe! Kalamazoo was okay and so was Greg’s cat Morris! This picture was taken about three months after the flood…both pick ups were back on the road and good as new…thankfully we had insurance and WB knew how to clean them up and replace what needed to be replaced.
The deck at the back of the house…can you see those tiny marigolds in my old Hitachi pot that was my Mom’s…despite the destruction…horror and grief…those flowers survived…they had not moved either as that was where I placed them the day before the flood. Seeing the flowers in the chaos gave me strength and hope that even though our lives were in chaos we would get through this flood just like those beautiful flowers.
We found some of our steel panels…many we never saw again and some were beyond saving as they were twisted into an unrecognizable object. As you can see we had mud and debris to clean up for months…and then rebuild the ranch…fences, barns, corrals, irrigation lines etc. and bring new life into the painful memories of a 100 year flash flood.
The only loss of life was the young man who was passing through with his fiance’ for a few days of rest and also training on some polo horses from S. California. Like us, he was caught off guard when the water hit and he tied himself to a pole fence with his rope in order to swim/walk out in the water to reach three of the horses trapped on an island in the middle of the raging flood water. He was able to reach the three horses on the island and had got on one of them when the fence broke due to the force of the water and that was the last he and his horse were seen. The other two horses swam out and were okay. It was very hard on all of us but especially his fiance’ and his family…he gave his life in the true cowboy way by thinking of his horses before himself…he did not know the power of the water and tried his best and gave his all.
To be continued with the final chapter…