Flood Waters Are Treacherous The Courageous Story of John Elliott Buell By Randall C. Resch
Operations Editor Randall C. Resch is a retired California police officer and veteran tow business owner, manager, consultant and trainer. He writes for TowIndustryWeek. com and American Towman, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame and recipient of the Dave Jones Leadership Award. Email Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
hundred-year storm consumed towns up and down Maryland’s Potomac River Valley as floodwaters consumed the region. In October 1942, The Washington Post reported 5.4 inches of rain fell in D.C. areas in less than eighty hours. A comparable flood event occurred on July 18, 2018, where Arlington County’s (VA) Fire Department rescued 40 clueless individuals stuck in 25 vehicles. Their ignorance ultimately required rescue because they knowingly drove around barriers and into flooded roadways. If you know about hydrology and flooding, you know that perilous conditions create immediate and deadly consequences. An unassuming motorist’s ignorance only makes them victims of a deadly drowning scenario. It’s their shortsightedness that puts rescuers and towers in harm’s way.
THE RESCUER’S FATE
I discovered a 79-year-old account of a garage mechanic who drowned attempting to rescue a car that washed 12 • September 2021 | Towman.com
into flooded waters. Dear to this industry’s heart, the “garageman” used a wrecker in his heroic yet unsuccessful attempt. This lost story was buried in the proverbial archives until I read vintage newspaper articles headlining; “Flood’s Crest Reached”, “Swollen Waters Menace Capital”, and, “World War Two Era Flood Was Worst in D.C. History.” Several modern-day articles by The Washington Post equally confirmed high-water events that inundated D.C. Incident: On October 16, 1942, a frantic caller told police that people were trapped in cars as floodwaters swept over River Road near Seven Locks Road; an extension of the Potomac River near rural, Cabin John, MD. Garageman John Elliott Buell instinctively headed out in his wrecker against his wife’s pleas. Buell, reportedly chief of Bethesda’s volunteer fire department, immediately sprang into rescue mode where his actions, although heroic, ultimately cost him his life. Buell’s story was nothing less than tragic, as told the following day by