Murrieta firefighters perform 2 swift water rescues, schools close as massive winter storm moves through the area

Members of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team help a man negotiate through a flooded street after his vehicle became stuck on Skypark Lane Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo
Members of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team help a man negotiate through a flooded street after his vehicle became stuck on Skypark Lane Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo

Murrieta firefighters responded to two different swift water rescues Sunday, Jan. 22, according to officials.

The first incident occurred on Skypark Lane near Vista Murrieta Street around 4 p.m. when the driver and solo occupant of a Hyundai sedan became stuck in deep, fast moving water, according to Valley News freelance photographer Joe Fanaselle.

“Firefighters were able to pull the man to safety,” Fanaselle said.

Calls to emergency dispatchers regarding a second vehicle stuck in fast-moving water began to flood into the emergency call center around 5 p.m., according to published reports.

The family of four was on their way home from a birthday party when their vehicle became stuck in some fast-moving water along Monroe Avenue south of Los Alamos Road.

A member of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team clings to a pickup truck that became stranded after being swept off the road and into a flooded creek bed along Monroe Avenue in Murrieta, Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo
A member of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team clings to a pickup truck that became stranded after being swept off the road and into a flooded creek bed along Monroe Avenue in Murrieta, Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo

A mother and father, along with their two young children, were trapped in their pickup truck when it was swept of the road and carried several hundred feet downstream.

Firefighters from six Murrieta Fire Department units threw lifejackets to the vehicle for all the family members before working their way through the fast-moving water to the truck where they performed a dramatic swift water rescue.

They were able to remove all four people from the vehicle to safety, according to firefighters.

“Traffic along Interstate 15 was crawling at a snail’s pace as two fire engines set up along the overpass to the wash on the freeway and prepared to rescue anyone that may have been swept further downstream,” Fanaselle said.

No injuries were reported in either incident.

Members of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team help a man to higher ground after removing him from his vehicle which had become stuck in high water on Skypark Lane Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo
Members of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team help a man to higher ground after removing him from his vehicle which had become stuck in high water on Skypark Lane Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo

Due to the storms, which dumped almost 7 inches of rain on the area since Thursday, schools were closed in Idyllwild, Aguanga, Anza, Menifee, Perris, Nuevo and Moreno Valley.

This was the strongest storm since December 2010, when Riverside County received seven to 12 inches of rain in the valleys over a similar storm period, the County of Riverside Emergency Operations Center reported.

Approximately 37 roads in unincorporated areas were closed due to flooding and/or debris.

Numerous accidents were reported throughout the life of the storm, according to law enforcement officials. Several deaths related to the storm were also reported, including the death of a 15-year-old girl later identified as Arielle Healy of Palm Springs, Friday, Jan. 20. Healy died after being ejected from the Ford F-450 she was a passenger in when the driver lost control as she was driving Southbound on Interstate 15.

A member of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team, in chest-high water, makes his way to a vehicle trapped in floodwaters on Skypark Lane near Vista Murrieta Street Sunday, Jan. 22. The rescuer carries an anchor that he will use to stabilize the vehicle while other team members remove the driver to safety. Joe Fanaselle photo
A member of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team, in chest-high water, makes his way to a vehicle trapped in floodwaters on Skypark Lane near Vista Murrieta Street Sunday, Jan. 22. The rescuer carries an anchor that he will use to stabilize the vehicle while other team members remove the driver to safety. Joe Fanaselle photo

Another person died Sunday, Jan. 22, when their car went over the side of the road on the rain-slick northbound 15 freeway north of Temescal Canyon Road.

“Motorists should always slow their speeds during inclement weather, leave a safe distance between them and the vehicle in front of them and always wear their seatbelts,” CHP Public Information Officer Mike Lassig said.

In Rainbow, the body of a man was discovered in a creek off the 4800 block of Fifth Street near Old Highway 395. As of press time, rescue workers were still searching the area after receiving reports that a child was seen in the water. It was possible that person actually saw the man’s body, North County Fire Protection District spokesman John Buchanan said.

The Murrieta Fire Department would like to remind motorists to not cross flooded roadways.

Members of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team watch as fast-moving water over takes a pickup truck that was swept into a flooded creek along Monroe Avenue south of Los Alamos Road in Murrieta, Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo
Members of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team watch as fast-moving water over takes a pickup truck that was swept into a flooded creek along Monroe Avenue south of Los Alamos Road in Murrieta, Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo

“We haven’t seen rain like this in about five years and I think people sometimes forget that the depth and power of the water on a flooded roadway can be deceiving,” said Murrieta Fire Department Public Information Officer, Matt Corelli. “Motorists should never try to cross a flooded roadway. It’s safest to turn around and find an alternate route.”

The Public Safety campaign, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown,” reports that each year more deaths occur to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over half of all flood related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths are due to walking into or near floodwaters.

According to the website, www.weather.gov, many of the drownings related to flooding are preventable but many people continue to drive around the barriers warning of flooded roads.

Members of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team prepare to enter a flooded creek along Monroe Avenue south of Los Alamos Road in Murrieta, Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo
Members of the Murrieta Fire Department’s swift water rescue team prepare to enter a flooded creek along Monroe Avenue south of Los Alamos Road in Murrieta, Sunday, Jan. 22. Joe Fanaselle photo

It only takes 6 inches of fast moving flood water to knock over an adult and 12 inches to move a small car. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.

“It is never safe to drive or walk into floodwaters.”

Community members may call 211 for more information. If you do not have an emergency, do not call 911. Follow@RivCoReady on Twitter for current incident information.

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