We have them all the time in a nearby creek. They can happen within a minute or two. Once the water starts rising there may only be a couple minutes to recognize it and get to safety.
Flash floods are often caused by far rain upstream. Here, rains 50 miles away on Pike's Peak and in Colorado Springs usually cause the flash floods.
Maybe someone knows a rescue technique I don't, but once the river starts raging, there isn't a good way to rescue someone as the water has more power than people realize.
Always check the high water bush line when camping near a creek and camp WELL above it. The water in the creek here often rises seven feet, so you want to be at least 10 feet above it and not in a spot that will become an island.
I wish I had some pictures from our last flash flood. The water went about 100 yards into the woods.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
We had some flash floods here a few days ago. One of my daughters (Lisa's) boyfriend is on the "Swift Water Rescue" team here, but he was out of town when a call came in around 4am from a mother with two children who was caught in one. Lisa had his radio on because we get tornados and she sat up and listened to the dispatcher and rescue crews talk it over. They couldn't get to them, but they all survived without injury.
Just a day later the same women showed up where another of my daughters (Kelly) works to get her cellphone replaced. Those two got to talking about what happened to her. Her story went like so:
She and her husband own some land that has a gravel bar on a creek and they have camped out there many times over the past 5-6 years since they acquired it. She was well aware of the flash flood dangers there and was up checking the weather reports and keeping an eye on the creek and weather she could see. She knew there were storms around but it was not raining much on them and the creek was rising very slowly.
Around 3:00am she decided to pack up their gear and leave. Just as she finished she heard a loud rumbling from upstream. She got her kids (9 and 11 years old) in their SUV and by the time she got it started the water was over the gravel bar she was on and almost up to the windows of the car. She said it was literally a 5 ft wall of water that came down the creek and it pushed their car up against some trees just a few feet from where they'd parked. Within a half hour they were all sitting on the roof of the vehicle. She made her last call to 911 around 4:00 am, about 20 minutes after her first call. Lisa heard the dispatcher tell the rescue team the woman said the water was within an inch of coming over the roof of her car, and the rescue team responded there was no way they could get to her. Lisa shut the radio off after that because she couldn't bear to hear anymore.
The women told Kelly that she told her kids they'd have to swim for it, so they grabbed on to each other's hands and just a moment later they were pushed off the car by the water. The dispatcher told the mom later that she heard a scream (it was her daughter) and some splashing and gurgling, and then nothing.
The mom said they started floating together with the current. She said they were only in for a few minutes at most when they saw a clear shoreline to swim to and they all climbed out. She said that part was not really that scary. I don't know if they had life jackets on, but I suspect they did.
I've seen the creeks and rivers here raging lots of times, but I've never witnessed anything like that woman described. I've heard about it, but never actually saw anything close to that. Scary stuff indeed.
Wow, harrowing story and thankfully, a happy outcome. As a parent I simply can't imagine how I'd manage something similar.
Some moron (sorry, but that applies here) wrote the local dead tree paper after the Philmont accident that the Scouts should have never camped where waters could suddenly flood (that part may be true, I'll await the official inquiry) and that "back in the day" they knew well enough to trench around tentsites and that because of environmentalists we no longer take this necessary safety step.