Your phone starts vibrating. All the phones in the room start going off. An amber alert, a weather warning — technology has given us ways to be aware of the potential disasters around us every day.
The hope is that with these sorts of notifications, people will be safer. They’ll be more informed, more aware and able to avoid life-threatening events.
Like getting stuck in flash floods. Flash floods are common in many areas, and generally, the people who live in those areas are well aware of it. Sometimes though, accidents still happen, as in this instance.
The place was Old Bee Cave Road in Austin, Texas, on the evening of Friday, May 3. As the area was pelted with a violent and sudden downpour, many got flash flood warnings.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, some areas of Austin got 5 inches of rain in only three hours.
As the water fell in sheets from the sky, some areas began flooding, and a low section of Old Bee Cave Road was underwater.
It’s unclear whether the car was already on the road when the flooding began or whether the driver thought the water wasn’t too deep, but either way, they found themselves stuck in the deep, rising water — and the entire car was being pushed toward the edge of the road and into the now-roaring creek.
The car contained three women and a dog, and one of the women called 911 in a panic, realizing their predicament. KXAN-TV reported that the woman said “I’m stuck,” “We need to get out ASAP” and cried during the 911 call.
Three policemen — Benjamin Cochran, Kevin Perrydore, and Matthew Valli — were seconds away, and rushed to the scene.
“I think they realized that they were trapped in the vehicle and could potentially drown,” Cochran said.
“We just need to do something now,” he recalled thinking, “otherwise they are going to go over, and it’s not going to end well.”
Of course, during the 15-minute rescue, the rain did not let up, dropping a total of more than an inch during that short, quarter-hour period alone.
Valli waded out with a rope while the other two held the end, creating a line that two women used to get to safety, and two women got out, but the waters kept rising and the car inched closer to the edge.
The waist-deep water held a strong current, threatening to sweep the car, one of the women, the dog and the cop away. At two points, the last woman floundered and broke free from her rescuer’s grasp — for a few moments, their lives were hanging in the balance.
“We lost grip,” an emotional Valli said, “and all of a sudden I see Ben just come diving in and I was like, ‘Oh man, what just happened?’
“I see him, and I see him struggling. Ben is probably one of my best friends at the department, and I thought, ‘God forbid anything happen to him.'”
Seeing his opportunity, Valli managed to snag his fellow officer and friend by the belt and hauled all three to safety.
“I just saw whatever I could grab onto,” Valli said, “I saw his belt and I was like, I’m holding on and not letting go no matter what.”
They weren’t quite out in the clear yet, as the panicked dog ran back into the water and the woman nearly followed it back in. A minute after the four were rescued, the car slipped into the creek and washed away.
“It was a lot to take in,” Valli later said. “I realized I could have died. Other people could have died right there in front of me. It was something I just needed to sit down and embrace and think about it for a while.”
“Officers Perrydore, Cochran and Valli made heroic efforts — we are proud and honored to have them in this department,” the Austin Police Department’s Facebook page posted on May 7.
The rain’s not over, and Cochran has an urgent message for anyone who might consider ignoring warnings and trying to forge flooded roads.
“With the coming rains that we are about to have, please, it’s not worth it,” he said. “Just turn around, take the extra five, 10 minutes because it’s not worth getting trapped in your car and potentially drowning.”
Still, he believes that they were meant to respond to that scene.
“I really think we were placed there for a reason,” Cochran said. “I am feeling very happy that we are able to get them out.”
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