Heavy rains washed away campground guests, vehicles and possibly the livelihood of some Ellenburg and Altona residents early Wednesday.
Surging waters from the north branch of the Chazy River crashed in on the Ranch Side Park Camp Ground, owned by Clinton County Legislator Sam Trombley, at about 5 a.m., forcing the evacuation of 125 campsites there and at nearby Blue Haven campground.
CLINGING TO vehicle
Clinton County fire and Emergency Services teams helped five to six people who were caught in the flash flood to safety.
State Police sent divers and an air boat to the area to aid in the rescues, which kept crews busy throughout the day.
One woman, one young man and two girls were clinging to the side of a vehicle in the flooded Ranch Side Camp Ground.
"They were standing on the ground behind it and then were getting up onto the side of the vehicle, which was blocking the current," said Ellenburg Depot Assistant Fire Chief Eric LaValley.
LaValley was one of several firefighters on the south side of the Chazy River bank attempting to heave a rope across the water, which LaValley said appeared to be flowing from a narrow portion of the river into a man-made water body in the campground.
"The current was getting swift enough that the vehicle was starting to move," he said.
LaValley saw the trapped people lunging at the rope each time it was tossed out, and he began walking down the bank in anticipation of one of them getting caught in the current.
"I sensed something could happen because they were so anxious to get out of there, jumping at the rope."
LaValley watched the two girls catch the rope and tie themselves to it. The older woman, believed to be the mother of the two girls, and the young man simply grabbed onto the rope.
"I think she thought she could just hang on to the rope, but that wasn't the case, and she ended up coming down the river.
"I ran down the bank, jumped in and grabbed onto her. She got on my back, and we swam to shore.
"It was getting pretty hairy out there when I got to her, that's for sure."
LaValley was exhausted after the rescue but assisted with cleanup efforts the rest of the day.
"I had to sit down for a while because I was pretty weak, pretty whooped. But I just continued on, and the EMTs began to check her out. It was quite a morning."
The woman, who is from Canada, reportedly suffered bruises from the battering she took as she was pressed by the raging water but was otherwise unhurt.
VEHICLES WASHED AWAY