TONTO BASIN -- A father and son were swept away by rushing water after monsoon rain caused the Sycamore Creek to flood in Arizona on July 25 quickly. Bystanders managed to rescue everyone and get them to safety.
A video that captured the gut-wrenching rescue of two men and a child after becoming stranded in floodwaters in the desert of Arizona over the weekend showed just how quickly flash flooding from monsoonal thunderstorms can strike in the Southwest.
This dramatic moment was captured on video by Zahid Mendez, who was out riding four-wheelers with family in the Tonto Basin, located to the northeast of Phoenix, over the weekend after an SUV raced past the group.
Mendez started recording and captured the terrifying incident. “My first reaction was something bad might happen because it was a really strong current,” he said.
The rapidly rising waters of the Sycamore Creek swept away the SUV with two men and a child inside. Miranda Franks, who was following the SUV in a separate car, watched in shock as floodwaters swept her husband and son downstream.
The video captures Mendez and his family racing downstream to follow the SUV as the strength of the current causes it to flip.
According to Mendez, after the vehicle flipped, he saw a child being pushed out of the window. Two men also emerged from the vehicle just before it was flipped once again, dumping the stranded passengers into the floodwaters.
The family watching the scene unfold quickly jumped into action, tying ropes together and wading into the treacherous waters, AZ Family reported. The mother can be heard crying out as her family is swept away in the swiftly moving floodwaters.
“When I got to the dad he was fighting to keep his son afloat. He didn't care he was under the water; his whole goal was to keep his son's head above water," said Roberto Varela, who reached the father and son first. "The dad was drowning."
Mendez captured the child being brought to safety, adding that the boy was terrified and shaking. A few yards downstream, the father was pulled out of the rapids but was so exhausted after fighting the current he couldn't stand, AZ Family reported.
Miranda Franks was rendered speechless by the kindness of the strangers who jumped into action to save her family. “They have my whole heart right now," she told AZ Family. "They didn't know my family, but they jumped into the water; they grabbed them. I am so grateful; I can't even put it into words. I really can't."
The second man was also pulled from the floodwaters. All are reported to have suffered only minor injuries, according to AZ Family.
Franks explained how quickly the situation turned into the harrowing scene that unfolded in the video.
"It was barely sprinkling; it wasn’t even full-on raining, then all of a sudden, the flash flood hits you,” said Franks, adding her vehicle starting taking in water only a minute or two after floodwaters began rising.
This isn't the first dramatic water rescue footage that has surfaced since the monsoon returned with a vengeance this summer. Several other rescues have been caught on video this monsoon season, which AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno described as the most robust monsoon season since 2015 across the Southwest. One such video showed a man and his two daughters being rescued from the roof of their vehicle after it became submerged in floodwaters in Catalina, Arizona, on July 14.
A brief break from the most widespread and heaviest monsoon thunderstorms that began early in the week will last through Wednesday, but the region won't be out of the woods yet, AccuWeather meteorologists warn.
"The monsoon will pick up late this week into this weekend across parts of the Desert Southwest," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said.
Moisture from the Gulf of California will surge northward late Thursday and into Friday, and it can fuel heavier downpours as thunderstorms erupt across New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona on a daily basis.
Any thunderstorm can lead to flash flooding, but areas that have already picked up heavy rainfall so far this summer, especially across hard-hit Arizona, will be particularly susceptible to flash flooding.
AccuWeather meteorologists urge residents or those traveling across the Four Corners region to stay aware of weather conditions and heed all hazardous weather warnings such as flash flood warnings. A heavy shower or thunderstorm nearby could send floodwaters into low-lying areas, including slot canyons.
"Heavy rains from showers and thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding and debris flows," added Walker, advising people to "watch out for rapid rises of water levels, especially in and below canyons and ravines."
Showers and thunderstorms that don't produce heavy rainfall can also bring impacts to the region.
Monsoon rainfall in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, is already outpacing the last three monsoon seasons combined. Phoenix has reported 1.67 inches of rain so far this July, and Tucson has picked up a staggering 7.06 inches. These Arizona cities typically report 0.91 of an inch and 2.21 inches of rain during the month of July, respectively.
Maura Kelly is an AccuWeather meteorologist.