31 December 2008

That's over my head!

From the Citizen Soldier side: OK, Thank God for Google. Since I couldn't remember which year I was sent to the Russian River flood, I had to look it up in Google. It was the end of Dec 1996 through early Jan 1997. Wow, I was only a few years off....so going back to that cold ass time about 12 years ago.
I was driving one of the old 5 ton dump trucks. We were sleeping in the Guerneville Fire Station on New Years Eve 1996. We woke up to the sound of rain...lots of rain. We looked outside and things looked "normal" for that time of year. Then a fire fighter told us to look behind the station. The water was deep... 45-47 feet over flood stage!!! That was way over my head and I'm not a good swimmer.
The Fire Chief asked if I could pull their portable building up to higher ground. I had a truck with a winch on the front. I asked if they knew how much the portable building weighed...they had no idea. Oh well, I'd give it a try. The worst thing that could happen is I'd break my winch. I did break my winch. The winch had a shear pin that was supposed to break before the winch did...but some dumbass stuck a hardened bolt in where the shear pin was supposed to go...so the winch, which ran of the Power Take Off (PTO) had about 9 million horse power from a big ass diesel engine...
So, I had about a mile of steel cable all wrapped around my front bumper. Oh well, it's a government truck. I decided that we'd stop our efforts at pulling up the Mobil building, since I didn't want to break anything else.

Our next mission was to go to the Red Cross station in Guerneville and take some refugees to Santa Rosa, CA. I drove around to the building, but the parking lot was full of cars. There was no way I could drive my 28,000 pound Beast into the parking lot and drive out again. I could see this, but the crazy lady working for the Red Cross was freaking out. As I parked on the street in front, she was screaming for me to drive up to the front door so people wouldn't get wet getting into my truck. ( I think they were thinking I was driving a bus, they were going to be in for a surprise.)

I tried telling the crazy, screaming, mad, lunatic Red Cross lady that there was no way I could get my truck through the full parking lot and up to the front door. She just kept screaming-- which lead me to question her authority. She got really mad, and I told her to take a pill or go smoke something and relax. She got even madder and screamed more. She was just a volunteer, I was a paid professional--right?

The parking lot was surrounded by a cement planter box that was about 18 inches high. No problem for the Beast to drive over in all wheel drive...smashing the cement to crumbs. I got right up to the front door and shut her down. "There lady, are you fucking happy now?"
Then, they started bringing out some folks that made me question why we were there at all. Now, before I describe these folks, think about this: If you saw the news, read the paper, listened to the radio, every "normal" person along the Russian River knew that it was going to flood...bad. So, what types of people were not aware that it was going to flood? Guess.
Drunks. Drug addicts. Bums. Homeless. Drunk, drug addicted, bum, homeless people... and the likes of which most people reading something on the Internet have never seen. I was afraid they were going to get my dump truck dirty.
We had the dump bed configured to haul humans... the bench seats were down, the canvas top was on...there was no heat in the back, but we also had no heat in the front. It was a cold, wet, bitch of a day.
But we did our job and loaded the people into the back. And all but one of them were complaining. A few asked if it was OK if they smoked a joint or drank in the back. I told them the truck was leaking fuel, so they shouldn't smoke. They did anyway.

We started back to Santa Rosa. The side roads were now full of local ass hole's cars...they moved them out of the flood zone and totally blocked the only route we knew of to get out. I had a big truck and I considered just smashing through all the parked cars.... but I didn't. We turned around and dropped the "people" back off at the Red Cross shelter.
I guess they didn't like us there, so a few hours later, we were sent further west to Monte Rio or some such place. Now the food was getting worse...but we had cots to sleep on. For a cook we had a guy I called "Biker Bob." He was a burn out, but he wanted to help. He cooked 3 meals a day for us. The first morning he was smoking his Marlboro and making some kind of egg thing. He said: "Wow, I lost my smoke...oh well."
One of the guys was eating his "egg thing" and found Biker Bobs smoke. And that's how it was...
At mid night some drunk woke up and called the fire station. He said:" Hey, there's water all around my house. Can you send a helicopter and come rescue me?" I was able to talk to the guy on the phone. I told him: "Can you swim? Try swimming out and let me know how that works out. You dumb ass."

We almost lost my truck trying to rescue a fire truck...it'll make your butt pucker when you're driving on a road, flooded with fast moving water, and your 28,000 pound truck starts moving sideways!!! That was fun. Some folks from FEMA showed up. They didn't do much but ask really stupid questions. I told them I had an idea. About that time the US Navy was getting rid of a bunch of subs, so I suggested that they give them to the folks along the Russian River to live in. When the water comes up, close the hatches. They didn't seem to have a sense of humor.
We hung around until the flood waters went down. We didn't loose any troops on that flood. I went home after about a week...then got called for another one up north. But that's another story.

Happy New Year!!!

1 comment:

J said...

THAT was a crazy flood! When it can move a truck that heavy sideways!? Yikes. Glad all the troops came back OK...

...and you're right, FEMA has no sense of humor at all...
but you crack me up. :)