Updated: Wednesday, 26 May 2010, 5:39 PM CDT
Published : Monday, 24 May 2010, 11:16 AM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - KXAN's Chief Weathercaster Jim Spencer suits up and plunges into the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels with experts waiting to "rescue" him to illustrate the dangers of swift water.
"I don't care how good a swimmer you are. Michael Phelps couldn't swim in a current (like this)," Spencer says after Austin-Travis County EMS crews rescue him.
The exercise was done in conjunction with the EMS crews to show viewers that even the strongest of swimmers can get caught up in swift water. The videos show Spencer's own perspective and then an interview with the rescuers.
Here's Jim's first-person account of the harrowing experience:
A rainy day in New Braunfels. Flash flooding in the area.
The perfect time and place to learn just how powerful and deadly swift water can be. Our goal out there on that day was, in conjunction with the experts, to show you just what floodwaters can do – and hopefully teach you some tips on how to save yourself should you be caught in the rapids.
So, under the watchful eye of an Austin-Travis EMS rescue crew, I suit up.
A waterproof suit. A helmet. And a floatation device.
My gear on, I head down to the water to learn a survival swim – vital in saving yourself if you fall in swift water.
First step: Get on your back.
Second step: Get your feet up, so you don’t get snagged on anything under water.
Third step: Swim toward shore
"As quickly as you can,” a rescuer says, “point your head towards the shore, on your back, and start aggressively swimming backwards towards that shore."
A few more practice runs, and I'm ready to see what it's like to be rescued.
Several rescuers are downstream, and another is on the shore ready to toss me a floating bag attached to a rope - my lifeline.
I’m shaken up, but safely on the banks again with the help of several rescuers. The water's force takes me by surprise.
You don't have any control. You're at the water's mercy.
Round Two proves to be even more intense. I miss the bag. I struggle under the water, and finally get pulled to shore.
I try again, and this time the rapids get me before I’m finally rescued.
My last try: I take the life vest off to feel the full force of the water. Extra rescuers stand by, just in case.
You think you don't have control with a life jacket on? Wait until you don't have a life jacket on.
It takes me four tries to get it right. But in a flash flood, you may only have one shot at survival.
"It's a very dynamic environment, and it can grab hold you at any moment, and that's it," said Capt. Craig Smith of Austin-Travis County EMS.
That's why the best way to keep yourself safe is to avoid swift water all together.
But if you do find yourself swept into fast-moving water, remember:
"It doesn't matter who you are,” Smith said, “it can take you."
Watch KXAN Austin News this week for daily coverage of water survival stories and tips.