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Rescue crews kept busy due to high water on Brazos River

Brazos high water
Posted at 10:51 PM, Jun 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-07 18:50:36-04

WACO, TX — Dangerously high water on the Brazos River has swallowed up vast sections of the Waco Riverwalk as the river overflows its banks outside of town.

Some people can't seem to resist getting too close during a flood, and that keeps Waco fire rescue crews busy.

One of Waco's most well-known attractions draws visitors for another reason these days. The suspension bridge that crosses the Brazos River provides the best view of the Brazos.

However, the Waco Fire Department is kept busy due to recent floods.

"My job is to, basically be his eyes and ears. I let him know if there's another vessel comin', if we have debris or if we have a person in the water," said Captain Shon Cavitt.

He says people who try to swim in the flooded river, or fall out of a boat, could easily end up pinned to debris and are unable to free themselves.

"Depending on how strong the current is, if somebody's floating down, they get pinned up against there, they could go underneath and it can actually hold them under and they can't get out because there's so much debris," he said.

Cavitt says that also played a part in the department's most infamous rescue to date.

The Waco Fire Department made an unusual rescue on a Saturday afternoon, when four people found themselves in the middle of the river on a giant deflating raft.

Cavitt believes the raft caught a snag causing a puncture, and he says the Brazos has plenty of snags right now.

"That inflatable that was in the water the other day, they're not paying attention and something like that will run across it and it punctured it, then they're in trouble," said Cavitt.

And he pointed out, you can't see many of these tree limbs and stumps.

"You can see, there's about 12-feet of log and you can tell it goes down, so there's no telling how much of that tree is underwater," he said.

Captain Cavitt also points out that even boats behave differently in high water.

He said a lot of people don't consider, during a river's normal height, a boat behaves one way. But in flooding, the characteristics turn completely different.

In high water, operating a boat in the current, a one-degree turn results in four degrees, and a four-degree turn results in eight degrees.

Cavitt says high water also causes contamination. So, the water itself poses a risk because it may have come in contact with any number of hazardous materials along its travels during times of flooding.

He says until the high water goes down, he has just one piece of advice.

"Honestly, just stay out of the water. So that would be my recommendation, just not to even get in the water because there are so many different hazards," said Cavitt.