Miner Editorial | Turn around, don’t drown

It takes a special person to be part of a swift-water rescue team. That’s because, in many if not all cases, you’re butting heads with Darwin; you’re risking your life for a fool.

But it’s a job that needs to be done, and the four local Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue units are well-trained. These brave volunteers and community servants have saved more than a few lives.

Swift-water rescue is a self-explanatory term. There’s someone in swiftly running water – standing on the roof of a ruined car they foolishly drove into a flooded wash, clinging to a creosote branch as a flash flood drags at their legs, maybe going down for a third time after stepping too close to the edge. The rescuers, drawing on their training, fish them out.

“Search and Rescue typically gets called once someone either calls for help or it is reported by another party that a vehicle has entered into a running waterway,” MCSO Public Information Officer Anita Mortensen said. “We have had as many as 13 swift-water rescues in one night.”

There are no perennial streams in the Kingman area. But it’s easy to tell where the water runs off, evidenced by sandy washes and dozens of signs warning motorists not to enter when flooded. You’d like to think that such warnings aren’t necessary, that motorists would exhibit some common sense, but you would be wrong.

Most listen, but some don’t, and sometimes with catastrophic results. According to the National Weather Service, there have been 15 flood fatalities related to driving so far this year in the U.S. That compares to 37 in 2020, 61 in 2019, 57 in 2018 and 65 in 2019, a particularly deadly year, when 11 of those deaths occurred in Arizona.

More than half of flood-related deaths in the U.S. result from individuals driving into standing water, according to consumerreports.org.

For those who aren’t washed away and come out alive, it’s still going to cost them. Everything from alternators to engines can be damaged by being submerged, and the vehicle repair costs can reach into the thousands of dollars.

It takes just six inches of fast-moving flood water to knock over an adult, according to the National Weather Service. A foot of water can float a car; two-feet will carry away most trucks and SUVs.

And this year, after several years with few summer storms, the monsoon season is making a comeback. More than 2 inches of rain have fallen here in the past few weeks, including an inch in an hour at Kingman Municipal Airport the morning of Thursday, July 15.

And clouds have been building almost every sweltering afternoon. Rest assured, with this weather pattern taking hold, the accompanying downpours will be sending water – and vehicles – rushing down washes. That’s a given. And that’s why the search and rescue units are always looking for more volunteers.

For more information about volunteering, contact the Search and Rescue division at the sheriff’s office by calling 928-753-0753.

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