Driver of car swept downhill by California mudslide describes terror of 'wall of water and mud'

Driver of car swept downhill by California mudslide describes terror of 'wall of water and mud'
Pic courtesy of Burbank Firefighters

A driver who rode a wave of muddy water down a twisting street in his car during a Southern California flood said he is lucky to be alive.

“I just got pushed down the side of a hill by a wall of water and mud,” Desionne Franklin said Thursday in an Instagram video two days after the terrifying ride.

“Rocks flowing, mud flowing everywhere. Barely made it out.”

View this post on Instagram

Barely made it out.

A post shared by Desionne Franklin (@robotmillennium) on

Franklin, 44, and his girlfriend evacuated a friend’s home in the city of Burbank where they were staying as waves of storm runoff began pouring down a steep foothill street near hiking trails and a golf course. Water, rocks and mud cascaded down from mountains stripped bare of soil-stabilizing brush by a recent wildfire.

Franklin, who is from Dallas, said he heard rumbling around 6 a.m. Tuesday and saw something he’d never seen before: “river rapids in the middle of a residential street.”

But then the rain stopped and the water receded.

“I went back to sleep, not thinking about it,” he said.

Hours later, however, Franklin was told the neighborhood might be in danger and was being evacuated. He and his friend packed their cars and shoveled away several feet of mud that was caked in front of the driveway.

Then, a neighbor reported that rocks and small boulders were beginning to fall farther up the hill.

Franklin said he told everyone, “‘We’ve got to go now.’ I was a little frantic.”

He said his friend packed his daughter and three cats in a car and left. Franklin and his girlfriend left in a gray Prius.

Franklin drove slowly down the steep, curving road through waves of rock-laden, muddy water.

View this post on Instagram

Urban Prius bobsledding in #Burbank ! . . We are granting permission of this video to be used as long as credit is given to Burbank Firefighters Local 778.

A post shared by Burbank Firefighters (@burbankfirefighters) on

The brakes did little good as the wheels skidded on rubble, the steering wheel shuddered and the surging current pushed at the car.

Then, a wave of water crashed into the back of the car.

“My girlfriend was screaming at the top of her lungs: ‘Go, go, go! We’ve got to get out of here!’” Franklin said.

“There was barely any traction,” he said. “Then the hydroplaning started. I was completely at the mercy of the flow of the water.”

Video by a local firefighters’ union showed the car sweeping down and around a curve on the cascade. For 30 seconds, Franklin lost all control of the car before regaining a little traction.

“‘Oh, this might be how it ends,’” he said he thought.

On the way, Franklin saw other, mangled cars that had been swept away.

“They looked like wadded-up pieces of paper,” he said. “It was terrible.”

At last, the Prius made it to the bottom of the hill. Franklin said he and his girlfriend looked at each other and “just sat there, speechless.”

Remarkably, nobody was hurt in the flooding. The Prius, which Franklin recently had leased, came away with only a few scratches.

“I love the car now,” Franklin said. “It got us through hell and high water, literally.”

- AP and Digital desk

More in this Section

Israel set for third election after kingmaker refuses to back any candidateIsrael set for third election after kingmaker refuses to back any candidate

BT calls for Prince Andrew to be dropped as patron of digital skills award schemeBT calls for Prince Andrew to be dropped as patron of digital skills award scheme

Scores killed as Iran cracks down on fuel protests – AmnestyScores killed as Iran cracks down on fuel protests – Amnesty

How charities, universities and sponsors have reacted to Prince Andrew’s interviewHow charities, universities and sponsors have reacted to Prince Andrew’s interview


Lifestyle

Ed Power says there are some terrific children’s movies to enjoy as a family so sit back and get zapping.The best children's movies to enjoy as a family this winter

This week I am going to devote my entire column to cakes and baking.Darina Allen on cakes and baking: Buy the finest ingredients and always use butter

WE went shoe shopping for the kids at the weekend. To be honest, I couldn’t see anything wrong with the old shoes.Learner Dad: 'I’m afraid of being in a shop with my kids'

Well first and foremost, it depends what type of cold you have, as Prudence Wade discovers.Should you exercise when you’ve got a cold?

More From The Irish Examiner