David Rankin, a self-described “flood chaser,” has captured an amazing video of a debris-ladened mudflow in southern Utah on Sunday. The flow, which was spawned from a few inches of rain on otherwise dry terrain, carries not only branches but entire tree trunks downstream in a dangerous and writhing mass of debris.
Debris flows begin as flash floods and rapidly grow into mud-slinging monsters. “As the water flows downstream, it collects tree limbs, bushes, rocks and other debris along the way,” writes Jason Samenow. “The mass of debris causes the rush of water to slow, and the end product resembles a tsunami of sludge.”
Rankin captured the flow from multiple vantage points on the ground and in the sky via drone. The flow twists and turns along the mostly-dry riverbed, scouring out new pathways before it’s completely overrun by a torrent of muddy water. The flood’s parent rainstorm can be seen in the distance as the drone lifts for a view of the horizon.
These debris flows are just as dangerous as they look, especially for unsuspecting hikers that might venture out into the river wash. The thunderstorms that generate the floods could be dozens of miles away as the flow rages downstream.