Split Seconds Between Life And Death…

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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!

27 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marcella Rousseau
    Apr 07, 2013 @ 17:49:43

    You’re lucky to be alive! How terrifying!

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 08, 2013 @ 09:41:31

      We truly are…that all 4 of us were together at the right time to escape and that Bill saw the water rolling towards us was a miracle as seconds before that he was in what we called the medicine room, an old ice house with no windows to see out of, arranging stuff waiting out the rain that had just begun to fall. It was one of the first buildings to go when the water hit. And it was terrifying once the shock began to wear off.

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  2. JK Bevill - Lost Creek Publishing
    Apr 06, 2013 @ 05:49:38

    Reblogged this on lost creek publishing.

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  3. Shonnie
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 12:02:44

    Those events do shake our worlds. Shape us. Change us. It seems for you … the changes were for good. 😀 as always loved the pics.

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 05, 2013 @ 16:51:21

      I had never lived through any type of weather event until then…where we live today, where I grew up, we did not have weird weather only thunder and lightening but it did not last long or the occasional dust storm and snow in the winter etc…no tornados or earthquakes….and no huge flash floods like what we went through…I was pretty clueless at first with the water. It scared me all the way to the core of my heart when I saw this 7′ wall of rolling water coming straight at us as we backed the truck up to escape it but I did not understand the devastation it would do and had never seen a flood that was so wide and deep, moving violently fast…it did change me as I saw how quickly life can change and how every second matters…I came to see that our days count and life is precious:) Our weather has changed quite a lot the last 10 years or so and we do get weird storms now but not like that flash flood. I am so glad to see you and happy you stopped by Shonnie:) I have been so crazy busy yet helping WB get all healed up from his surgeries and then running our business office it keeps me off Word Press and I miss everyone:( So it is so nice to post and see all of those I have missed! Hugs and hope you have a fun, happy, sunny weekend:)

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      • Shonnie
        Apr 05, 2013 @ 17:38:03

        My weekend will be filled with work. 😀 Just part of the deal sometimes. 😀 It was great seeing you too. 😀 I grew up with tornados, floods, and hurricanes. hahaha … so weird weather has always been a part of my life and it still FREAKS me out! So I can only imagine how wild that had to be for you. 😀

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      • Hot Rod Cowgirl
        Apr 05, 2013 @ 18:52:37

        It was as it happened so fast and without any warnings. We always joke that when we managed that ranch we missed the entire first Gulf War as we had no clue what went on. We lived 35 miles from the closet small town on a twisty two land highway….used to take me an hour depending on weather and wild life to get to the grocery store…and neighbors were few and very far between. I loved the life and it was sort of odd to say but we had to create our own world out there….that part was good and with our boys still at home it was good too. I will be thinking of you as I too have work to do…gardening and doing horse stuff…do you like horses? If you were closer I would have you come over and brush on one….they are gentle and loosing their winter hair so time to help them get that hair off a bit….it makes them want to rub and itch. I have not posted it yet but last night we had a very weird storm here….I thought it odd since I just posted the storm and the flood intro. and yeah last night freaked me out too:)

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      • Shonnie
        Apr 05, 2013 @ 18:58:36

        Ok … hope I am not relpying twice, but poof my comment was gone … so here I go again. I have never ridden a horse. I used to pet and feed them carrots when I was a little girl and we lived close to a farm that had several. I am not sure how I missed riding a horse, but I did. Wish I lived closer, because I would come over and help you brush them. 😀 Always thought they were beautiful creatures.

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      • Hot Rod Cowgirl
        Apr 05, 2013 @ 19:37:45

        I have had that happen too with my message going poof! If ever you are close enough to come visit me I will help you learn….I have gentle good horses…not the kind that buck and spook….horses are so very smart they know when they are to be good. Once when my granddaughter came to visit, she was 4 and I had my horse Hobby, she was 5 ready….I have thse pictures of Hobby submitting to her and letting her ride in my saddle as I walked beside them….horses are so very intuitive and truly just want to get along with us:) They would love you:)

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      • Shonnie
        Apr 05, 2013 @ 21:06:01

        That sounds wonderful. 😀

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  4. JK Bevill - Lost Creek Publishing
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 01:42:59

    Powerful Story! I couldn’t help but think of the tornado of 1974 as I read your post. At that time I was watching Sonny & Cher say goodnight and then the lights went out. My mother and father were downtown. Mom called and told me to get my sisters and get in the basement. As soon as I got them downstairs the tornado hit. It happened fast, very fast, and the really scary thing for me was the sound. It kept getting louder. It didn’t sound like a train, but rather a giant vacuum cleaner. Just when I thought it would not get any louder it did. Down in the basement I realized my dog Oscar was not with us. I ran back up stairs and he was still sleeping on the couch. Afterwards we saw lots of property destruction, downtown Jasper looked like a war zone. If I remember correctly, there were no serious injuries.

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 05, 2013 @ 16:41:09

      Thank you. Your story is powerful too, I have never been in a tornado as we do not get those here but…I never say never…and our weather here has changed since I was younger. It is weird when you go through something like that, time in a way stops in your mind and everything happens in slow motion and yet you are moving frantically fighting for your life. When my hubby yelled at me I had no clue what he was saying I just knew by the sound of his voice I had to move and run to get out of the house…as I ran towards him, I saw the mass of water rolling straight towards us…as soon as I jumped into the moving pick up, he had it moving as fast as it would go in reverse to escape the water and yet the water began to hit the front of the truck as we backed up,thankfully escaping it by seconds…it was hard to take it all in and yet all these years later I can remember the odd details and vividly see them again in my mind…sounds like my story took you back to that too. We were both very lucky to get out and survive in a split second as that one moment saved our lives and yours too.I had 6 yearlings colts in separate corrals, between the house and the barn that disintegrated, and then our 2 horses in the pasture beside the house and behind the equipment shed in another pasture, I had 4 more horses…the water traveled about 12 miles or more before it hit us…we did not loose any of the cattle…the only loss of life was the young man who did not know either about the power of the water and flood…he tied himself to a log fence to swim through the fast moving, deep water to his horse and did not survive nor did his horse…our horses and the owners colts and older horses were able to swim out unhurt somehow. I found them all the next day. I did understand why he tried as I would have tried to do something to save my horses if I was him as I did not know that the water was so deep and strong….I asked WB if I could try to reach our horses to bring them across the road to us and of course he said NO…I was clueless to the power of the water, full of debris, logs and rocks. We felt so bad for his family in WY. and his fiance, as she witnessed it…we had her stay with us and I sat with her most of the night and the next days until her family could come.
      Thank you for sharing your story with me too….

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  5. Jonathan Caswell
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 20:56:51

    Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    GOD’S PROVISION IN THE MIDST OF THE FLOOD

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 05, 2013 @ 16:10:41

      Thank you:) I am glad you shared it. I was not aware until seeing the water’s destructive power how dangerous a flash flood is. Where we live and I grew up, we do not have huge flash floods…every ten years or so we will have a gulley washer and it will clean out our creek across the road from the house…and the house is built up on a small hill:)

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  6. bentehaarstad
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:52:29

    What an experience. The photos goes so well with this drama.

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  7. DawnSeeker
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 15:21:01

    What a moving story! God surely did provide. Great job of descriptive writing — keep it up! By the way, what year was this?

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 04, 2013 @ 19:11:46

      Thank you and thank you for stopping by my blog. This is the first time I have shared the events of that day, the emotions and lives involved….memories…I will have my hubby tell his perspective as well as we go through the day and and after the flood as well. I hope to continue to describe what I saw and we saw as best I can…there is much to describe in 1 second and time was racing…I wish I had a video camera and my camera as I stood watching the 200′ wide river plowing through anything in its path…full of debris and also rocks. I had no idea of the power of water and of a flash flood.

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  8. onespoiledcat
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 13:06:14

    What an incredible story! How lucky you were – how blessed…..the power of mother nature is amazing and that flood certainly could have taken much more than it did away from you……the photos are amazing – the sky tells us all we need to know if we just look for the right signs doesn’t it. Thanks for the story – we survive things like this because we have so much more to do in this life – God sees to that!

    Hugs, Pam

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 04, 2013 @ 19:05:16

      It was a scene I had never been part of before and had no idea of the power of the water…we were all very lucky, blessed by God to all be together at the same time as we had barely come together before WB saw the wall of water coming…I have never shared the story before as it was too painful and scary to relive it to tell it…but it has been a long many years now and I hope it will encourage others going through some kind of survival…and also educate others that a flash flood is nothing to take lightly…we had so much debris and rocks tumbling in the wall of water it was incredible. Stay tuned as I plan to share WB’s perspective as well.

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  9. Dianna
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:14:33

    Wow, this is just amazing. I cannot imagine living through something like this. How sad that the cowboy lost his life. Glad you, Wild Bill, your boys and your horses were safe though.

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 04, 2013 @ 19:00:31

      I could not either….I have never seen anything like it since. The power of the water was immense and very scary to stand helplessly by….we were very blessed to have been able to escape and as I share more of the story it was only within seconds that WB actually came in , same with the boys…and we all made the escape. It was very hard to loose the young cowboy as he and his fiance had only been at the ranch a few days just to ride their horses…the heart dr. played polo each year in Psalm Springs and he met them there and invited them to stay a few days on the ranch…the ranch was massive as the house they were in was 7 miles above our house…and we had one more house that our young hired hand and family lived in above them…since we had no rain we had no clue where the water came from and did not know about the young man who lost his life for a couple of hours…very sad and hard.

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  10. Teepee12
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:58:42

    That is a mesmerizing and gripping story. Wow. I can’t even imagine having to react and move so quickly with virtually no warning. Powerful stuff!

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 04, 2013 @ 18:13:27

      I was like you as I nor WB could imagine it either….we have both seen gulley washes where you have a could burst and it washes down a draw etc. but no this flood was epic and they said it was a 100 year flood as some of the buildings on the ranch were 100 years old….the house used to be a stage stop. Newsome creek was a bone dry creek bed and about 12″ wide….so seeing enough water hitting the ranch as wide to me as the Columbia River was something else. We had news helicopters circling us by the end of the day…and that was a hard thing too…we were all in shock and loosing the young cowboy was very hard. I will share more in the chapters coming. I had no idea that water was so powerful and seeing it disintegrate buildings and walk a D5 Cat out was amazing. We were very lucky to have escaped with our lives…and yes the no warming thing was hard as we had no idea of the danger…loosing the young cowboy was hard as he thought he could rescue his horse…very sad and I will write more as we go.

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  11. singleworkingmomswm
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:59:57

    Wow, this was amazing, heartbreaking, scary, and powerful to read, HRCG. Thank you for sharing it, as I’ve been going through my own “flash flood” in finding out my daughter is suffering from childhood anxiety disorder. I’ve had to cut out writing, reading, and anything “extra” in my life in helping her learn to cope with it and find her little spirit again. 6 weeks straight of panic attacks, tantrums, sleepless nights, rough mornings, and school refusal have left me very tired and worn. But, this post is a great and mighty reminder that we all have storms, and sometimes they do indeed come out of nowhere. We must be strong and move forward each and every day, and thank God for the blessings along the way. Thanks, again! XOXO, SWM

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    • Hot Rod Cowgirl
      Apr 04, 2013 @ 18:05:22

      It was scary and it was something I have never seen since thank goodness…I had not idea that water was so powerful and there was big rocks and debris rolling along in the water…the ranch used to be an actual stage coach stop and the house was not built on a foundation and the only thing that saved it from going down was that a huge semi trailer of one of the semi’s we used to haul cattle was pushed into the yard and then sort of diverted the water on one aide of the house and also on that same side was there I had our 2 horses so the semi trailer saved them too. I have never written about the flood before as for several years I could not talk about it without choking up with emotions. I am glad that my sharing the about the flood and how sudden it came on us, is helping you and giving you strength, faith and lots of hope:) I will pray for you and for your daughter to be healed and restored with God’s peace! I do know that God gives miracles and He loves us alot. I agree with pushing on as we take one day at time and ask God for direction…hang in there and know I am hugging you in my heart and sending healing prayers and prayers for rest and also strength….hope;

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