Flooding Puts Damper on Campers : Weather: Group is stranded for days after Saturday’s rains inundate a road in Caspers Park.


Only too happy to escape a terrible winter in Ohio, Bob Pate drove his 33-foot motor home all the way out to visit his son in Laguna Niguel.

“It’s so nice out here, I was planning to stay through the season,” Pate said with a wry smile Tuesday.

But the reunion turned into an adventure when Pate, 66, parked his RV in Ronald W. Caspers Regional Park, where he and nine other campers were left stranded for days after relentless rains Saturday turned a park road into a 150-foot-wide, 4-foot-deep river.


The water was rushing so fast over the road that park rangers could not drive through it until early Tuesday, when they managed to pull two couples in two small campers out with a big rig.

Pate, who was alone on the trip, and five other campers must wait for the water to subside this morning before they can drive their vehicles across the flooded road. Rangers said the two RVs remaining in the park are too huge even for the heavy tow truck to help them out.

Although the campers weren’t in immediate danger, it took some ingenuity and daring to get food and battle boredom.

The unexpectedly long camping experience made Pate miss a family gathering for his daughter-in-law’s birthday while he was stuck in the park.

“I couldn’t make it to the birthday party, Pate said after he hitched a ride on the big rig heading across the river so he could go buy extra food, water and beer for another night in the park. The road “was already flooded and I couldn’t make it across.”

Most of the campers came to stay at Caspers only for the weekend and none was prepared for the storm that swept over them.


“When we ran out of food I called a friend and he came to the park with some supplies,” said Robert Flint, 32, a construction worker from Fountain Valley. “We threw a rope across the water and made a loop. We attached a water cooler to the rope and transported some hot dogs and cigarettes across about five times.”

“It helped out a lot of people,” Flint said. “I don’t have any more cigarettes left today.”

Flint and his girlfriend also had to stay another night in his 18-foot mobile home.

Senior ranger Mike Brajdic said park officials did not anticipate the campers’ predicament.

“Everyone was caught off guard,” Brajdic said. “It’s kind of amazing how high the water came up. We didn’t know this much rain was coming through.”

Brajdic said rock and silt-ridden water clogged nearby flood drains, so the rainwater had nowhere to go. The rains swamped two small streams running below the road, causing the streams to rise and cover the road.

Erosion and road work on a part of Ortega Highway leading to the park has limited the weight of road traffic to five tons, Brajdic said. Heavy equipment needed to repair the flood drains cannot reach the park until the road is cleared.


With more rain expected, Brajdic said that “the ground won’t absorb any more water. Any water is going to run over the road and create a flash flood condition.”

Mary Ann Boyd, 45, of Mission Viejo said she and her husband, Steve, had just bought a new camper shell last week to fit on top of their baby blue Ford Ranger. They were eager to try it out in the woods, and Boyd said she called the park before they showed up Friday but the rangers didn’t indicate there was a potential problem.

“You should have seen the water yesterday. You couldn’t even swim across it,” said Steve Boyd after his truck was piggy-backed across the river.

Most of the campers were cooped up in their trailers during the heavy rains. Some played checkers, some stayed glued to the radio. Others just stared at the river, wondering when they could get across.

Boyd worried about missing work and leaving her two dogs alone at home. But she appreciated the opportunity to bond with fellow campers who were strangers just before the weekend.

“It was like, ‘Do you have any food?’ We’ll say, ‘Well, we have chips,’ They’ll say, ‘Great!” Boyd recalled as she waited for her new friends to be ferried across the water. “It was not life-threatening but it was amazing how everybody stuck together.”