3 January 1999--We had been experiencing drought conditions for so long that when the temperature climbed to 50 degrees after a heavy rain and the threat of a major winter storm had passed, I jumped at the chance to get outside. I decided to drive down to the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek and check out the river conditions.
On the way, I came upon high water in the road. It takes only 12 inches of water to sweep away a midsize car like mine. If in doubt, you are better off turning around and trying another route rather than risking endangerment to yourself by ending up in a flooded car. Luckily, this was just a huge puddle that became shallower in the opposite lane. I put on my hazard lights and drove around it.
The Brandywine Creek which had only yesterday been running at a slow trickle, was now almost a Class I whitewater. By mid-afternoon the Downingtown gage was at 6.91 feet. Flood stage on this part of the creek is 7 feet. It was expected to crest just below 8 feet.
Walking towards the creek I contemplated running it with my kayak. Several things stopped me. First, it isnít recommended that anyone run whitewater alone. Second, seeing the river from its banks presented an entirely different image. Flooded creeks and rivers present (sometimes unseen) hazards such as floating debris and fallen trees can create strainers.
Rivers and streams turn into entirely different creatures after a heavy rain or during the spring snow melt. Caution, respect for the power of running water, and learning how to read rivers can help you have an enjoyable experience on the water. In the future, the Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue Water Rescue Team hopes to provide more ways to enjoy the water safely.