Family recovers after July 24 Sacramento Wash floods

Riders on the storm: The Mathis family rode out of the July 24 Sacramento Wash floodwaters in their pickup truck, despite water broadsiding the vehicle and spraying up over the hood. GVG Photo/DONNA NEWMAN

Riders on the storm: The Mathis family rode out of the July 24 Sacramento Wash floodwaters in their pickup truck, despite water broadsiding the vehicle and spraying up over the hood. GVG Photo/DONNA NEWMAN

GOLDEN VALLEY - Like their neighbors, Jeff and Vickie Mathis and their young son stood outside and watched the rain coming down on July 24.

"We saw the Sacramento Wash was running, so we hopped into the truck to go watch it for a while," Jeff Mathis said.

They saw the road filling with water in one direction, but didn't realize they had anything to fear until they heard a roaring sound and saw rapidly rising, churning water heading right for their home.

"It wasn't a case of running for our lives," Vickie Mathis said. "Our older son grabbed the dog and I grabbed our younger son, Zach. There was a foot of water running through the yard then. It really was scary, but at no time did we feel our lives were in danger."

Still, her husband, Jeff, packed the family into his four-wheel-drive, diesel pickup and headed for higher ground.

"We could see it was going to get bad," Jeff said. "When we headed out, the water hit the side of the truck and we could feel it pushing us. Water was spraying up over the hood. It got our blood pumping."

The water wasn't all that deep - maybe a foot or foot and a half - he said, but it was running fast and hard, and filled with debris.

"We watched it from higher ground and the water receded overnight," he said.

"One family evacuated in a four-wheel-drive truck. We decided to wait it out."

Vickie called 911 and learned from the dispatcher that emergency crews were looking for bodies in the flooded wash.

The next morning, neighbors they had never met came by to offer a hand with cleanup.

"They offered to loan us their trailers and they helped us pack our belongings," Jeff said. "They offered to let us store our things at their place until we could get organized again.

"There are a lot of really good people out here," he said, "Some of them even offered to let us stay with them."

Vickie said it opened her eyes to the difference in people who look to take advantage of kind-hearted people, and those who appreciate the offer and still insist on doing for themselves whateve they can.

"I hate it when I see people taking advantage of other people with big hearts," she said. "I guess most of us have tried to help someone and found out they were just using us. That's really discouraging. I'm so glad there are still people who have big hearts and are willing and ready to help others when they need it."

The family immediately went to the property management company from which they and their immediate neighbors were renting their homes.

"Contrary to what some are saying, the flood didn't leave any of us homeless," Vickie said. "Rent was due to be paid the following week, so unless you were going to be late with your rent payment, we all should have had that money, and we got our deposit back from the property manager."

They found a home in Fort Mohave in the same school district they had left when they moved to Golden Valley in March.

"With children, we had to put a roof over our heads pretty fast," Vickie said.

The couple has been offered another home in Golden Valley, managed by the same company, and they'll be moving into it soon.

Vickie and Jeff said the whole mess could have been avoided if the county had not allowed developers to build homes in the middle of the Sacramento Wash.

"We like Golden Valley," Jeff said. "This is where we want to be, just not in the middle of a huge wash. Houses shouldn't be built there. It could have been a lot worse."