Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cuyahoga Valley NP Week 8

I started this week with shadowing Ranger Swaggard for the day. It was real overcast with many down pours so there were not a lot of people out. She showed me more about the radar, and I got a chance to check the calibration to make sure it is correct. It is very important to check it every time you turn it on so you know it is accurate, and this way it can hold up in court. I also practiced estimating in my head the speed of cars and then checking with the radar because that is an important skill to have. We ran a bunch of tags from vehicles parked, and I learned a lot more of the different offenses and there acronyms; for example DOER- Driving off established roadways.

Cuyahoga River 
The next day we kept getting many severe flooding alerts, and it was true! It rained here for 15 days straight. Not all day long, usually just one or two storms that pass, but there has been a lot of rain. The day before and this day had extreme downpour, and after the ground being saturated already from the previous weeks it just could not take it anymore. From the saturated ground, trees were also just slowly falling down and blocking the roadways. The whole day we just drove around and called in the next down tree, or helped clear the roadway, help with traffic, and so much more. We even had to check some flooded roadways to see if it was shallow enough for cars to make their way through. It was a crazy day!
One of many down trees causing road blocks

Valley Fire Dept. SAR Boat
The next day the Cuyahoga River was extremely high and flowing with a high velocity. I have never seen it this crazy. Many sections of the trails were closed because the river was flowing over them, or had washed it out. Lots of debris filled the river and washed up on shore, along with trees and logs clogging the river. Towards the evening we heard a report about a 9 year old boy who fell into the river. The local fire company, many police departments and ourselves started searching. We set up posts along the river to watch. The Valley Fire Department has qualified boat rescues, and they started sending boats out on the river. Unfortunately night fall started to arrive and it became too unsafe to continue the search, the search resumed the next morning. A few days later I heard on the news that they found the boy's body. It is a very tragic loss and makes you realize that what seems to be a normal river you see everyday can suddenly become a dangerous habitat. It also reinforces the importance that this job truly has, and you never know what to expect but must always be ready.
Flooded Road

On Saturday I was picking up some cones that were no longer needed to close off sections of the trail when a few women came up to me because they lost their car keys. I took down all the information and brought it back to the Communication Center. They showed me how the Lost is filed, and what happens if something is found. Later that evening we received a call that some keys were found, (the same ones) and I went down and picked them up and the woman got her keys back! I did some hike patrols, and moved down trees/branches (if they were not too big) that came down from the previous storms. We ran some radar and made traffic stops, checked on an alarm that went off and found nothing. There were no broken entry ways, so probably a mouse set it off, We got a call about a fawn that was hit so we found it and had to make sure it was dead, before dragging it off of the roadway. It was quite a diverse day for me, and I did a little bit of everything!
Fox sitting in front of den under abandoned house

Sunday turned out to be by far the busiest craziest day I have ever seen in the park! The river was still very high and strong. We had 2 separate incidents of kayakers getting swept down the river. We set up spots along the river to catch them in case they needed help getting out, but neither of the searches became serious as we found the kayakers on land. There were 2 separate bike accidents on the Towpath, but everyone was alright. We received a call that a horse trailer had a flat tire but it was on the bend in a road and traffic was very fast. Ranger Stell and I did some traffic control so they could change their flat. Then there was a dirt biking accident which everyone was alright, but then that turned into something bigger because they were riding on park property and did not have licenses or registered vehicles and had to wait for rides and tow trucks. Even after all that there was a bicycle accident on a roadway. No one saw it happen, but the girl's friends and the first people on scene are pretty sure it was not caused by another vehicle, and maybe she just came down the hill fast and lost control. She was barely conscious and could not speak much English, along with her friend who also could not speak much English. The ambulance came and decided to have the girl airlifted because it seemed serious and also because of all the unknowns of not knowing what happened. It was a crazy day and I sure hope everyone turned out to be okay. I got a lot of experience dealing with different incidents and seeing how they can each turn out to be very different, and also the importance your presence in the park is especially on these busy days when we had sirens going on and driving in multiple directions at a single time.

The whole week gave me a lot of different and new experiences and I cannot believe how much I am learning and how fast my time here is going. More to come still!

-Jackie Innella

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