As you may be aware, drought-ravaged California has lately received so much precipitation that they’ll be skiing in Tahoe till August and the lower elevations are starting to look like Louisiana bayou. Systems calibrated to deal with a predictable amount of rain (read: not much) are failing, as exemplified by a particular levee in Tulare Lake Basin, a farming region in the San Joaquin Valley.
The problem with long-drained Tulare Lake is that it periodically likes to reappear after heavy rains, which thoroughly bonks the intricate water-delivery systems that feed the farmland. And yesterday, after a levee failed, local farmers came up with a quick and inspired solution: Drive a couple trucks into the breach.
This idea immediately raises number of questions, most notably whether two of the area’s least-favorite half-ton trucks would be heavy enough to stop up raging floodwaters. To get ahead of that problem, our dam-building maestros filled the beds of the trucks—a Chevrolet Silverado and a Ford F-150—with an amount of dirt surely beyond their rated payload, an insult that would look trivial compared to what happened next.
In this video posted on Twitter by farmer Cannon Michael, we see the F-150 already sunk in the levee gap, its bed and roof covered in dense-looking soil. “How did they do that?” you might ask. Well, we see exactly how they did that a moment later as the Silverado makes the ultimate sacrifice and joins the Ford for a quick dip.
Less safety-conscious fellows might attempt some kind of stuntman drop-and-roll out the driver’s-side door as the truck headed for its watery demise, but these guys seem to have had a different (and surprisingly effective) plan: put something heavy on the accelerator, drop the transmission into gear, and stand back.
The Chevy appears to have a column shifter, making this gambit slightly less dangerous, but our muddy protagonist still needs to step lively once the LS V-8 goes into drive. Which he does, stepping back to admire the temporarily autonomous Silverado make its short trip from atop the levee to down into it, where it lodges against the F-150 and indeed seems to mostly impede the floodwaters from reaching the orchard on the opposite side. The guys in the video seem pleased with the outcome, anyway.
Given more time and heavy equipment, they might’ve gone a slightly different route. According to a 1997 story in the Los Angeles Times, Tulare Lake levees were reinforced with crushed cars during floods in 1969. But those presumably weren’t driven in under their own power. That, we can all agree, is the innovation here.
We hope the plan worked out and the truck-based dam held up. But if, a few months from now, you see a blue Silverado or an extended-cab F-150 4×4 for sale real cheap in the San Joaquin Valley, maybe be extra thorough on that pre-purchase inspection.
Ezra Dyer is a Car and Driver senior editor and columnist. He’s now based in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are mutually exclusive.
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