The rushing water was almost cresting the roof of the cab, but local emergency personnel pulled a group of four people to safety just in time Thursday morning.
Their truck was swept off a flooded road the driver underestimated shortly after 7 a.m.
It was one of the worst impacts of the heavy rainfall that opened May. Despite high water in certain spots, closing multiple roads for hours, the community escaped serious damage from flooding after a forecasted second storm-cell dissipated.
From available data, Kilgore PD Sgt. Terry Linder estimates total rainfall here at 4.5 to 5 inches Wednesday night through Thursday morning.
“Anytime you get that amount of rain in this quick of time, the way these creeks and tributaries run, that’s what happens,” Kilgore’s emergency management coordinator said Friday.
Southwest of Kilgore on County Road 1114, after the night's rain, rescuers faced a daunting task.
"The hydraulics were very bad coming across the road," Kilgore Fire Chief Johnny Bellows confirmed Thursday. As the driver dared the swift water, "The truck washed off," trapping two adults, a school-age child and an infant in the flow.
"They were kind of pinned up against the trees."
Kilgore FD was dispatched to CR1114 at 7:39 a.m. May 2, joined by first responders from New London as well as Kilgore Rescue Unit volunteers at the scene in Rusk County.
Surrounded by the flood, the truck filling with water, the adults pulled the children to the roof and waited for the emergency personnel.
Kilgore Fire Department swiftwater specialist Bryan McLaughlin took charge of the rescue, Bellows noted.
“We had three rescuers (McLaughlin, Joe Rossum, and Mason Barrett) in the boat and it was very scary watching from the side as the boat was tossed around by the swiftwater and hydraulics occurring next to the roadway,” he added. “At one point as the rescue boat was swept into the wooded area we lost sight of the rescuers and the boat. “
The current proved too rapid for a direct route.
"When they got to the truck, one rescuer stayed on the truck with one victim and the infant while the other two were taken out. They went to the bank, returned and took the others out. The water was very nearly at the roof level."
Fortunately, he added, everyone escaped without injury. KFD cleared the scene about 9:30 a.m.
"It was very close to being a pretty bad situation. We can be very proud of these three firefighters that took on a very difficult situation with success," Bellows added. "The only advice we can continue to give on these things is don't drive in water over the roadway.
"Stay dry, stay safe."
To Linder’s knowledge, no homes in Kilgore were impacted by floodwaters.
“There was one close on Horseshoe on the corner near the park,” Linder noted, located on the banks of the on-again, off-again ‘Lake Meadowbrook’ that covers the golf course and nearby park areas when surrounding waterways overflow. “It came right up to their house. They were concerned about it.
“I think we lucked out. We were just right at the point that if we had gotten anything more it would be different.”
There was some minor but unsurprising damage in the park facilities, KPD Lt. Johnathan Gage noted, catching debris in the flow.
“The soccer goals. They’re a casualty every time.”