Southeast MO technical rescue team ready for flash floods

Swift water rescue training at Wappapello Lake
Updated: Jun. 20, 2018 at 8:39 PM CDT
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WAPPAPELLO, MO (KFVS) - The threat of flash flooding is never far away in the Heartland, but thanks to frequent training a local technical rescue team is ready when it strikes.

On Wednesday 40 first responders in the Homeland Security Response Team of Southeast Missouri went to Lake Wappapello to improve their ability to save people in fast moving water.

Part of the swift water training was about rescuing swimmers who were floating downstream.

"We are always trying to throw right in front of the person so they can reach out and grab the rope," said M.B. Smith with the Cape Girardeau Fire Department.

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The group also revisited how to efficiently cross the fast moving river, and Smith says the hardest part is not knowing what the bottom of the river feels like.

"We all grab onto each other and hang on and support each other," he said. "If you go parallel you are just going to be swept straight backward, and if you go at a 45 degree angle you can kind of break the current."

Captain Rob Greif says the Army Corps of Engineers at the lake helped by increasing the speed of the river so it was closer to a real flash flood scenario.

"They have opened the spill gate of the dam up an extra foot, so they are actually releasing more water than normal," Greif said. "You have to be a really good swimmer to get into the current and to be a swift water technician. Our guys who are techs are used to swimming and know how to swim in a fast current."

The technical rescue team is also preparing for a busy boating season. Using six of their own boats they were navigating through a course of buoys, practicing water rescues and flipping overturned boats.

Firefighter Jason Poole says lifting a boat while you're underwater is a lot harder than it looks.

"I'm about 250 pounds and it takes all I've got pushing that boat and pulling that boat over," Poole said. "The hardest part is when you get about 45 degrees out of the water. The boat wants to try and pull itself back down so you've got to use a lot of leg and arm strength to help force the boat over."

The Technical Rescue team is on standby 24-7 to help with flash flooding, and were deployed to Texas last year in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

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