Woman Swept Away, Rescued


Gila County Sheriff's deputies spent Sunday afternoon slogging through the rain, warning people who were camping and fishing along the East Verde River that the storm might cause a flash flood.

But despite the deputies' efforts and hours of rain, not everyone headed for higher ground.

Carla Parkerson of Payson, who was spending the afternoon at the river near the second crossing campground off Houston Mesa Road, was standing by the river when a five-foot wall of water crashed through the canyon and swept her downstream.

The 39-year-old was washed 100 yards down river before she was able to grab onto a sturdy sycamore tree in the center of the torrent and climb to a small branch about two feet above the roaring water.

She clung to the branch, shivering in the rain for nearly an hour while waiting for help.

When the Payson Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue Team found Parkerson at about 5 that afternoon, the river had swollen from a quiet, knee-deep stream to a thundering, muddy tide of rapids that had overflowed its banks, churning toppled trees and loosened boulders into the current.

Three members of the six-man rescue team waded into the current with an extra life jacket and formed a human chain, team member Rob Beery said.

"We got her into a life jacket and then walked her back to the bank," he said. "She was cold -- thoroughly soaked by the river and the rain -- but she wasn't hurt. She was shivering uncontrollably, so we warmed her up with blankets and heat packs and released her."

Downstream, the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department's Swift Water Team found three hikers who were stranded on the east side of the river.

Team members formed a human chain across the river and helped the hikers to the west bank, where they could climb out to Houston Mesa Road. No one in that group was hurt.

During the monsoon season, people need to remember that flash flooding is a very real risk, Beery said. "A small creekbed may turn into a raging wall of water without warning."

If it starts to rain heavily upstream or at your location, head for higher ground -- about 15 to 20 feet above the water level, he said.

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