As an unrelenting storm pummeled San Diego County Thursday, several drivers were rescued from a waterlogged roadway in Fallbrook after their cars became stuck in rising flood waters.
“Just to think, we’re only two miles from home and, you know, we almost didn’t make it the last two miles of the trip,” said Cody Fausett, one of the drivers pulled from the waters that filled De Luz Road.
After being rescued by swift water crews from the North County Fire Protection District and several other agencies, Fausett sat in the back of an ambulance where he was evaluated by medics. He was grateful to be alive.
Fausett told NBC 7 he had attempted to cross De Luz Road in his truck but as he trudged through the water, he realized he had gotten himself into trouble.
“We made it through the first pretty deep section. The water was over the hood; the car stalled a couple times,” Fausett recounted. “We made it out, and then came across the second flood and it just wasn’t happening. We looked at it and it just looked too deep to attempt.”
Fausett was behind another car that had attempted to cross the flooded road too.
The driver in that car was Leticia Alvarez. She was frightened.
.@CALFIRESANDIEGO resources are attempting to access a medical emergency in the De Luz area of #SanDiegoCounty but due to flooded roads a CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire swift-water rescue team is en route. #DeLuzIC pic.twitter.com/dqOCSsxgWr— CAL FIRE/SAN DIEGO COUNTY FIRE (@CALFIRESANDIEGO) February 14, 2019
She told NBC 7 she was driving through the water when her car got stuck. She tried to shift into reverse, but nothing happened. As she sat paralyzed, she could see the water rising around her vehicle.
“When I saw no one was coming, I got scared,” she told NBC 7.
Alvarez called her husband, her family and friends. She waited. When she saw Fausett drive up behind her, she at least knew she wasn’t alone.
Fausett said they each sat in their vehicles for a while. He tried to call for help from his phone, but service, for him, was spotty.
He told NBC 7 his heart began racing when he heard nearby trees start to crack “like they were going to fall off the side of the hill.”
He feared a landslide would be next.
After a little while, a rescue crew was able to wade out to the motorists and get them to safety. No one was hurt.
Fausett said this was the worst flooding he had ever experienced in Fallbrook. After this experience, he said he will never attempt to drive through flooding again.
Capt. John Choi, spokesperson for the North County Fire Protection District, said about a half-mile of De Luz Road had flooded amid the heavy rainfall. At its shallowest, the water was about 2 feet deep.
Choi called the conditions “significantly treacherous.”
In all, Choi’s agency, with the help of crews from Pala, Encinitas, Cal Fire and Camp Pendleton, rescued five people from that road, including Fausett and Alvarez.
“We went through and walked through that waterway – which is basically a river,” Choi told NBC 7.
“This road, De Luz Road, is normally a thoroughfare and we can get through it but due to the significant rains we’ve been experiencing this morning, it has risen to a river that has crossed over that roadway.”
Choi said it had been a while since De Luz Road flooded in this manner. The road is a major thoroughfare in the community and, for some residents, the easiest way to get to their homes.
The captain warned that drivers should never try to drive through flooded roads like this.
“If you have roadways that are covered by water, turn around. It’s better to turn around than to drown,” he said. “Find a different way. It’s not worth it.”
Choi said cars can easily become disabled in flood waters leaving the people inside like “sitting ducks.”
“The worst thing that could happen is that the vehicle starts to get buoyant and floats away and now goes over the cliff and then people start drowning,” he explained. “We’ve seen that happen in the past.”
To see images of the storm from around the county, click here.