Home » Watch Desperate California Farmers Fill Pickup Trucks With Mud And Sink Them To Dam Floodwaters

Watch Desperate California Farmers Fill Pickup Trucks With Mud And Sink Them To Dam Floodwaters

Dam Top

I lived in California for almost 20 years, and one of the last adjectives I’d ever use to describe my time there would be “wet.” Or even “damp.” Or, hell, “moist.” But somehow an abnormally and historically wet winter has swelled rivers and lakes to such a degree that there’s now severe flooding happening. It’s especially bad in the Central California San Joaquin Valley area, where desperate farmers are filling completely fine, upstanding pickup trucks full of mud and deliberately sinking them in floodwaters in an effort to dam the water and plug holes in levees to save their farms. This is a last-ditch effort, but it seems to be working, and the videos of the process are staggering.

We’ve seen this story covered by the San Francisco Chronicle and Ag Daily, as it is incredibly compelling. Check out this video of a mud-crammed Silverado being launched into the floodwater to fill a gap in a levee in the Los Banos region, which will hopefully stop water from the overflowing Tulare Lake – which has previously been a dry lake bed filled with farmland – from flooding nearby pistachio fields:

Holy crap, right?

In that video you can see someone – I presume the farmer and ideally the owner of the blue Silverado, its bed crammed full of wet mud – put the running truck in gear, the gas pedal held down by something, and send it off down a short dirt causeway before it plunges, dramatically, into the water, ending up next to the silver Ford truck already in the muddy water.

You can see some bubbles from the exhaust before the truck eventually stalls out, resigned to its new job of stopping water.

There’s already a Ford pickup in there, helping to block the flow of water, and based on subsequent images, it looks like the unlikely Ford-Chevy dam teamup has worked:

So, the mud-filled trucks did their job, and the farmers say the trucks will be recovered once the waters (hopefully) recede. So, if you want to get your offer in on a perfectly fine save for some probably minor water-damaged Silverado or F-series pickup, now’s the time to reach out. [Editor’s Note: To be clear: Barring divine intervention, these trucks will never drive again. Also, it said on the brochure there would be sun here in California. There is not. -DT]. 

[Mercedes’ Note: Is it bad that the first thought that came to my mind was Don McLean’s American Pie? “Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee wasn’t dry.”]

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Top Photo: Cannon Michael/Twitter

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39 Responses

  1. Honestly i’m shocked this worked!Levee breaches can be super difficult to plug.Obviously they followed up with scoops of dirt but it’s still amazing.Outstanding result!

    1. No time, the flooding was happening right then, they needed to fix the breach as quickly as possible to minimize damage, not in a couple of days when you can maybe get a tractor trailer to get out to you to deliver it, and also rent a crane to unload it and maneuver it into place. By then, the damage would have all been done.

      Farms don’t keep a big crane and stacks of empty shipping containers around just for eventualities like this, but they do have pickup trucks

    2. When a levee breaches you don’t have very long before the breach grows to a size that cannot be plugged. Quickly flowing water will easily erode anything loose including any dirt you try to push into it and that hole gets bigger and bigger. So I think the issue here is you have minutes to find something to act as an anchor and stop the flow enough that you can put the dirt back in place.

    3. OK. Where are you going to get one?

      No. I’m not joking. Also shipping containers are hollow – they’ll be crushed like an aluminum beer can by floodwaters like this. But seriously. Where are you going to get them? There’s still a global imbalance resulting in severe spot availability shortages, plus an overall shortage, which means if they can get it – and the Port of LA says ‘fuck no, we got dibs’ – a single container is going to cost them $6,000+.

      1. There is actually a surplus of them in California right now. It’s china where they are scarce because they are sending them here as fast as they can.

        1. The movement’s so fucked up across the board, I’ve given up keeping track which port has too many and which has too few any given month. I just assume no containers are available either for lack of containers, trucks, or ship capacity, and so far I haven’t been pleasantly surprised.

    1. Given that these are in shallow water the static pressures are very low.Dynamic pressures are slightly higher but i’m confident they wont leak much.
      Emptying the gas tank and engine oil later will be a different story.They’ll have to dispose of that mess properly

  2. I have beavers on my property that I will gladly turn a blind eye to the removal of who would take care of this overnight. Maybe not as fast as the trucks in an emergency, but once the beaver forces are deployed, there won’t be many emergencies.

  3. Note to editor: it stays overcast/misty and chilly for 3ish months. You’ll also learn that there are plenty of days you don’t want to go outside because of smoke or (especially inland) because it’s hot enough to kill you. The amount of ‘nice’ days you have really isn’t too different from the southeast, it’s just that most of your ‘bad’ days are less shitty.

    TBH you can buy a house in the San Bernardino mountains for surprisingly cheap prices. If you can swing it, it’d be worth picking up as a weekend and extended summer getaway kinda place. Cooler in the summer (although still hot) at elevation and it’ll put you near awesome off road. You could even keep your jeep/tools/parts/junkyard there

  4. Can’t wait till the EPA and whatever California’s equivalent of it sue these guys…

    I don’t want it to happen but I bet you it will happen.

  5. I was using cat food bags of mud here last week.

    This guys were facing thousands of dollars a minute in damage, so pickup trucks were cheap, fast, and available.

    1. And let’s not forget, because America:
      – Car gets flood totaled? Insurance covers that.
      – Home gets flooded? “Fuck you, you should have bought insurance you can’t legally buy because it’s not a designated flood zone. Also if you don’t repair the structural damage immediately, we’re cancelling your policy and putting it into foreclosure.”

    1. This. I work in Merced another central valley ag town. There are a lot of seasonal wetlands in the area and many land owners wanted to destroy them to plant more almonds. They don’t see the value in it but I’m sure if they didn’t leave those areas alone the flooding there would be much, much worse and they would all be like, “why are we flooding? FJB”

      1. Yeah, it’s like when people build golf courses in the desert and whine about water restrictions. Seriously, some places are not meant to have vegetation.

    2. From what i could find,these fields are the high value crops and they’re BESIDE the lake.And they built the levee for exactly these situations so hardly poor decisions.
      From the little info i could find it seems they grow annual crops in the lakebed, so no big deal if there’s a flood

  6. I just Can’t help thinking a few cheap past their prime shipping containers and a rented crane would do the job better, faster, and with far less environmental damage and you could use the trucks to drive home instead of walking. After all the wheels on the truck go round and round. Oops lost my train of thought. The wheels allow water to get all around the trucks. Mud or not i see pickups floating down the road in 1 foot of flooding all the time. A ton of mud aint stopping water that high. Oh the media showed it. Yea the media no credibility just clicks except our buddies at Autopian. A good rectangle shipping container filled with fill being controlled drop in mud would definitely do the job better. But hey Budweiser.

    1. As others have said, shipping containers take many hours to arrive- at least!
      Trucks are available *right now* and a bunch of guys could fill one with mud in 15 min.

  7. Like… wouldn’t a backhoe/bulldozer and dump truck full of fill dirt suffice? Maybe I’m just ignorant, but I feel like there’s at least ten better solutions than ruining two $20,000 – $30,000 pickup trucks that you also later have to recover lol.

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