Spry Canyon Flash Flood Video, July 11, 2012

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Flash flood videos can’t do justice to the real thing, but this video from Spry Canyon last Monday (7/11) offers an educative perspective. The narrators’ emotions perhaps say more about the danger than the actual video… these two guys are clearly scared, excited, and riveted by the crashing, dynamic conditions. They literally have no idea what might happen, how high the water might rise, what debris might come crashing down to them. A scary situation.

Were these guys in danger? It’s really difficult to say. Obviously, the water came up quite a bit while they were there, and they seem trapped in the alcove they are in by the middle of the video. But they seem to feel safe in their perch, amazed and lucky they weren’t stuck in a worse position in the canyon. As they point out, their next anchor is 1-2 feet under water by mid-video, and even as the waterfall slows toward the end, they point out how the overall depth just keeps rising. The parting shot shows the red webbing anchor filled with debris, hinting at the surge that receded only minutes before.

The weather forecast on this date was not obvious: 40% chance of rain in the AM, 30% chance in the PM. It is easy to think, “If it doesn’t rain in the morning, we’ll okay to go in the afternoon.” Yet this sort of thinking is completely illogical. This flood started around 5 PM and dumped one inch of rain in an hour’s time. So the important take-away lesson is the weather forecast doesn’t matter much. If you are going into a canyon with questionable, cloud-scattered skies overhead, you’d best be in a canyon where escape is frequently possible. Even in Spry, where escaping the drainage IS often possible, you can get into deep trouble if you are caught in the wrong spot.

Please have fun, and be safe out there!


About Nick

Nick Wilkes found ZAC in 1996, working first as an outfitter, then a guide, then as webmaster. An ardent adventure enthusiast, Nick's recent exploits involve laying down roots in Wisconsin, chasing his kids around the house, working as a Madison, WI photographer and growing his Wisconsin climbing business. Connect with Nick on Facebook, Google+, or directly via email.
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