Despite countless warnings and barricades blocking rivers and flooded roads, authorities say many drivers still ignore the signs and continue driving through submerged streets.
As rainfall hit Southern California, the wet weather created treacherous conditions including flooded roads, destructive mudslides and a spike in water rescues.
As heavy rainfall flooded nearby streams and rivers, some residents became trapped by the rushing waters.
One couple recalled the terrifying moment they were swept into the Santa Ana River in Jurupa Valley on Wednesday morning. They were left stranded on an island, with seemingly no way out to safety.
“The water just came out of nowhere,” recalled Casey Roberts, a man who was rescued. “We saw people on the other side and we waved for help from them.”
Roberts eventually required the help of Riverside’s technical rescue and swift water teams.
“The water, it got to be too much to where we kind of got anxiety but we’re good,” said Brittney Dixon, who was rescued alongside Roberts.
“The challenges that occurred in developing that plan was the location where those victims were found,” explained Capt. Paul Seawright of the Riverside City Fire Department. “They were in an island of the Santa Ana River bottom that had heavy moving water surrounding them as well as debris and vegetation.”
Rescue crews deployed a raft to carry the couple to safety. The entire ordeal took around an hour and a half, officials said.
Meanwhile in Menifee, four others were trapped as their vehicle was flooded out in the middle of a street near Palomar and Matthew Roads.
“They put safety gear on all of the passengers and the driver, which is a helmet, a flotation device, and a vest and were able to walk them out,” said Maggie Cline De La Rosa from Calfire/Riverside County Fire.
Despite continued warnings to drive safely and avoid flooded roads, some residents are choosing to ignore the risks to arrive at their destination.
Nooreldeen Atam, who works in Menifee, told KTLA that despite driving a small car, he felt he didn’t have a choice so he still navigated through flooded roads to job.
In the aftermath of another storm hitting the Southland, De La Rosa said since Tuesday, they’ve responded to five water rescues in the Inland Empire.
Shade notes it’s terrifyingly easy for running water to become dangerous before one realizes it.
“It only takes six inches of water to push a human down,” said De La Rosa. “Vehicles are anywhere from 12-24 inches and it can wash your car away.”