AUSTIN (KXAN) - KXAN's Chief Weathercaster Jim Spencer suits up and plunges intothe 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 Phelpscouldn't swim in a current (like this)," Spencer says afterAustin-Travis County EMS crews rescue him.
The exercise was done in conjunction with the EMS crews to showviewers that even the strongest of swimmers can get caught up inswift water. The videos show Spencer's own perspective and then aninterview 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 deadlyswift water can be. Our goal out there on that day was, inconjunction with the experts, to show you just what floodwaters cando – and hopefully teach you some tips on how to saveyourself 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 onanything under water.
Third step: Swim toward shore
"As quickly as you can,” a rescuer says, “point yourhead towards the shore, on your back, and start aggressivelyswimming backwards towards that shore."
A few more practice runs, and I'm ready to see what it's like tobe rescued.
Several rescuers are downstream, and another is on the shoreready to toss me a floating bag attached to a rope - mylifeline.
I’m shaken up, but safely on the banks again with the helpof 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. Istruggle under the water, and finally get pulled to shore.
I try again, and this time the rapids get me before I’mfinally rescued.
My last try: I take the life vest off to feel the full force ofthe water. Extra rescuers stand by, just in case.
You think you don't have control with a life jacket on? Waituntil 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 atany moment, and that's it," said Capt. Craig Smith of Austin-TravisCounty EMS.
That's why the best way to keep yourself safe is to avoid swiftwater all together.
But if you do find yourself swept into fast-moving water,remember:
- Get on your back.
- Get your feet up and your eyes downstream
- Start paddling toward shore.
- And if a rescuer is nearby, watch for the throw bag, pull the rope over your shoulder,and hold on.
"It doesn't matter who you are,” Smith said, “it cantake you."
Watch KXAN Austin News this week for daily coverage of watersurvival stories and tips.
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