Flash floods in El Dorado

The downpour of rain Tuesday pounded our roof as I packed food for work and fielded my husband’s comments about the unusually poor drainage in our backyard.

Hydroplaning my way to the north end of town to shop before I clocked-in, I observed with astonishment the deep, swirling water filling ditches and overflowing sometimes onto the road.

Following another car, I headed down the hill to the mall. The other car splashed straight into a wide pool of water formed by the backed-up, overflowing storm drain. I assumed that if they could make it, I could. I followed them into the water.
The other car cut a spray of water and drove off. My car stalled in the middle of the wave-rocked pool of brown water. I turned off the radio to verify that my engine had stalled.

Listening to the rain drumming on the roof of my car, I considered my situation. I really did not want to get out in that rain and water. I pushed the electronic button to lower my window and waved my arm at passing vehicles.

An SUV pulled-up beside me. The driver said he would call the police – they would know what to do.
I knew what needed to be done – tow my sloppy, wet car to dry land.

I waited …. and waited. I wondered if the water would rise high enough to cut off the battery so I could not lower the window. I looked around to appraise my situation and noticed an inch of water covering the carpet behind me. Only the vinyl of the heavy plastic floor mat floating over the pool of brackish water kept my feet dry.
A high riding vehicle zoomed past me, rocking my car gently backwards in its wake. My car floated into even deeper water.

I pressed the button to lower the window and looked at the still rising water. I could not believe it would get worse. The water had to go down as soon as it stopped raining. We don’t get flooding this far from the river.
We did Tuesday.

Someone called from the edge of the water that I should get out. With the heavens still dumping rain, I agreed. I tossed a few items I did not need into the back window – hoping it would be high enough to keep them dry. I grabbed the stuff I wanted with me and eased the door open. Brown water flowed into the car.

“It’s going to be a pain getting this car dried out and cleaned,” I thought as I stepped into the cool, dirty water and became one more flood victim forced to wade through mucky water to higher ground and a dry welcome.

Inside the department store, no one manned the cash registers. No customers strolled the aisles. Both customers and employees stood at the door watching the rain – and the spreading flood in the parking lot. An employee congratulated herself on having moved her car away before the flood waters gathered.

We stared at the last hold-out in the parking lot – a man sitting in his mini-van by the drainage pipe, waiting for the water to crest and drain. Fifteen more minutes, a couple more calls to come ashore and he too, abandoned his vehicle and headed inland from the parking lot flood.

I called home. Of course, in the short time it took for my husband to bring me dry clothes and a high riding vehicle, the rain dwindled to a drizzle and the water had drained below the bottom of the car.

My hair wet and frizzy, I arrived at work in drenched slacks and a sopping wet coat – very ready to clean up and put on dry clothes.

A call to a towing service and a nearby garage put my car under cover to dry out and assess the damage.

Once the rain quit pouring, the parking lot drained away all evidence of my emergency – except the bill for towing my car and replacing its starter.

An expensive lesson learned – take the long way around deep looking puddles – even if that other car does soar safely through to the other side.

(The now dry Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at joanh@everybody.org)