Ford and Chevy Pickups Help California Farmers Plug Levee Breach


As you may be aware, drought-stricken California has been receiving so much precipitation lately that they are skiing in Tahoe until August and the lower elevations are starting to look like Louisiana Bayou. Systems calibrated to handle a predictable amount of rain (read: not much) fail, as illustrated by a particular bank in Tulare Lake Basin, a farming region in the San Joaquin Valley.

The problem with the long-drained Tulare Lake is that it likes to resurface from time to time after heavy rains, thoroughly disrupting the intricate water delivery systems that feed the farmland. And yesterday, after a levee failed, local farmers came up with a quick and inspired solution: Drive some trucks into the breach.

This idea immediately raises a number of questions, most notably whether two of the area’s least favorite half-ton trucks will be heavy enough to stop raging floodwaters. To get around that problem, our dam-building maestros filled the beds of the trucks—a Chevrolet Silverado and a Ford F-150—with an amount of dirt that was surely more than their estimated payload, a trivial insult would seem compared to what happened. following.

In this video posted on Twitter by farmer Cannon Michael, we see the F-150 already sunk in the bank gap, its bed and roof covered in dense soil. “How did they do it?” you might ask. Well, we see exactly how they did it moments later, as the Silverado makes the ultimate sacrifice and joins the Ford for a quick dive.

Less safety-conscious fellows might try some sort of stuntman to drop the driver’s door out as the truck headed for its watery doom, but apparently these guys had a different (and surprisingly effective) plan: put something heavy on the accelerator, drop the transmission into gear, and stand back.

The Chevy appears to have a column shifter, which makes this game slightly less dangerous, but our muddy protagonist still has to walk lively once the LS V-8 kicks in. What he does, as he steps back to admire the temporarily autonomous Silverado, is make the short trip from the top of the embankment down into it, where it rests against the F-150 and seems to mostly block the floodwaters from overflowing the orchard. to reach the other side. The guys in the video seem happy with the result anyway.

Given more time and heavy equipment, they might have taken a slightly different route. According to a 1997 story in the Los Angeles Times, Tulare Lake shores were reinforced with crushed cars during floods in 1969. But these were presumably not driven in under their own power. That, we can all agree, is the innovation here.

We hope the plan worked out and the truck-based dam held up. But if you see a blue Silverado or an extended-cab F-150 4×4 for sale in the San Joaquin Valley a few months from now, maybe be extra thorough with that pre-purchase inspection.

Head shot by Ezra Dyer

Senior Editor

Ezra Dyer is a Car and Driver senior editor and columnist. He is now settled in North Carolina, but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are mutually exclusive.