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Oct 21 2011

“I Can Feel The Boulders Rolling”

I have to admit that my first thought in the few seconds of this video was, “What the fuck are you doing, you fool? Get away from the wash!”

Then I discovered the person filming the video is a USGS hydrologic technician, and I was like, “Oh, right. Carry on, then.” This is definitely one of those don’t-try-this-unless-you’re-a-paid-professional sort of things. Much like climbing down into the craters of active volcanoes FOR SCIENCE.

These floods are scary dangerous things. Too many people don’t appreciate the power of water. But just watch that video. Look at the sediment load that water’s carrying. Listen to the roar. Consider they could feel boulders bouncing in the flow, just standing there at a relatively safe distance on the bank. Note the size of the channel these occasional floods have carved. It’s not a good place to be standing when the water comes pouring in.

And it comes fast, and hard, and without much warning. Flash floods have appeared in the desert on clear, bright, sunny days when the nearest rain is a hundred miles away. The moment you hear a rumble and a roar, it’s time to get the hell to higher ground.

Unless, of course, you’re a scientist, in which case you know how to do crazy dangerous things relatively safely. In which case, carry on.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Graham

    “Unless, of course, you’re a scientist, in which case you know how to do crazy dangerous things relatively safely. In which case, carry on.”

    Or maybe if you’re a scientist, you just carry on.

    http://xkcd.com/242/

  2. 2
    badandfierce

    Yup, scientists are always very responsible about the crazy things we do. Geologists especially. No climbing down untended cliffs to look at mudrock next to a dam that could be opened at any moment. No running outside to the the funnel cloud when a storm knocks out power during a test. Never ever. (Man, undergrad was fun.)

  3. 3
    besomyka

    That… I don’t know what I was expecting, I guess. Even through the video, the power behind the flood waters is palpable. Quite impressive.

  4. 4
    Cujo359

    The “narrator” was discussing instruments. Are they placing instruments to determine the size of a flash flood? Might be useful for safety reasons. Those culverts can only handle so much water.

  5. 5
    geocatherder

    I was once on a class field trip to the foothills of the western Sierra Nevada to look at some really interesting folded folds. It had rained the night before and was still raining further up the hill. To get to the site, we had to climb down a hill and cross a bouldery little creek that was, oh, two inches deep.

    While we were studying the folds, thankfully somebody happened to glance up the creek bed. He yelled “flash flood!” and we all ran like hell, across the creek and up the hill. By the time we got to the top of the hill, that creek was 3 or 4 feet deep, full of rushing water. About a hundred meters beyond where we’d been, the creek ran into a rather large, fast-rushing river, so anyone knocked off their feet by the flash flood would have been in a GREAT deal of trouble.

    At least I now know how those boulders came to be in that little creek…

  6. 6
    Monado, FCD

    Good running.

  7. 7
    Morejello

    I’d be interested in knowing the rest of the story behind this video – why a bunch of them were in the right place and time to catch this on video. They clearly knew it was going to happen, so I’m curious about the details.

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