For 30 years, Brian and Sheri Lasher have made their home on several acres in New River, Arizona. They raised their two daughters, have gotten to know the land and are no strangers to the natural fury that can be unleashed as the summer monsoons roll through.
It’s not unusual for the Lashers to witness flash flooding in the area, but on Friday, in less than an hour, their world was turned upside-down by an absolute deluge. The family spoke to The Western Journal about the harrowing ordeal.
Before lunchtime, Brian went on a hike with one of the family’s three dogs, a pit bull and German shorthaired pointer mix named Daisy. Normally he would have been at work, but on that Friday he was home — a fact that Sheri was grateful for and that ended up being providential.
The couple had seen the wash rising, and Sheri posted about it on Facebook, mentioning that the conditions were making her nervous. Both Brian and Sheri were in their mobile home at noon when the skies unleashed a record-breaking rainfall.
At approximately 12:20 p.m., the water level started to threaten their home. The couple’s camper trailer parked a short distance from the house was already being claimed by the current, and the water had reached Brian’s welding shop. Seeing the situation steadily worsen, Brian called 911.
As he continued talking to the operator, the mobile home shuddered. It started moving, dragged off its base by the rising water, and finally came to rest 30 feet away, lodged against some trees.
The porch broke off. Water poured in through the windows. Their vehicles were swept away.
Brent Senton, a Daisy Mountain Fire and Medical Department Public Information Officer, told The Foothills Focus about being on the receiving end of Brian’s call.
“They were trapped inside their mobile home,” Senton said. “The water was spilling over the windows and their trailer was becoming unstable. They were worried it would tip over and be washed away.”
To top it all off, neither the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office nor Daisy Mountain Fire & Rescue could reach the stranded pair by land because the land was now underwater. They sent a helicopter to retrieve the couple, but before they could be rescued, Brian and Sheri would have to exit their home and put themselves at the mercy of the flood.
Brian walked through the water, mud and debris, carrying Sheri toward the pickup point. They tried to bring one of their dogs, a rescue Chihuahua named Tinkerbell, but the rescue team told them to leave her in the house.
Thankfully, the Lashers were carried to safety, but they left everything behind and had no idea if their three dogs and cat would survive what their home, vehicles and shop did not.
The next day, a relative who came to help found Tinkerbell safe and sound in the house. A short while later, Daisy was found in a tree, above the waterline, where she appeared to have weathered the storm. With a bit of coaxing, she came down and collapsed into her family’s arms.
The third dog, Daisy’s littermate Dakota, was found wandering in the aftermath of the flood but was relieved to see familiar faces. The cat, Hoss, took the longest time to find, as he was hiding out under the Lashers’ UTV — but he, too, made it back into his owners’ arms after being sniffed out by a neighbor’s dog.
Other than some bumps and bruises, the pets were all fine — a miracle in its own right. Earlier reports from some sources stated that two of the dogs perished, but the Lashers are happy to report that is not the case.
While the family has been able to salvage some personal items from the home, and it looks like some of the appliances might even be saved, they have lost everything else. The camping trailer disintegrated and its contents are unsalvagable. Their vehicles have been ruined by sludge and debris.
One of their cars, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, was found a quarter of a mile away with a large rock embedded in the radiator.
Brian works for the Maricopa County Department of Transportation and has been running his own welding business, Lasher’s Welding, since 2001. All his work equipment has either been destroyed by water and mud or flung far and wide into the desert.
At this time, it is unclear what insurance will cover. The insurance company is practicing social distancing and attempting to assess the damage virtually, but since the home is rural and the cell service is poor, it’s difficult to maintain any calls with agents.
The Lashers have lived in New River for so long, but in all that time they’ve never seen anything like Friday’s unprecedented storm. July 23 saw record-breaking rainfall, the most in decades, and wildfires in the area stripped the desert of vegetation, leaving it susceptible to flooding.
“I’ve been with the department for 17 years and I’ve seen my fair share of flooding in that area,” Officer Senton said. “This is unlike anything I have ever seen. All the washes were 3- to 4-feet deep. They were flowing like a river.”
“I was scared to death,” Sheri told The Western Journal. “Thankful that Brian was there with me. Thankful we made it out and the critters survived it.”
Despite the staggering loss and herculean cleanup efforts their property will require, the Lashers have been greatly encouraged by the support they’ve received from the community. Their daughters, family friends, acquaintances and complete strangers who have been touched by their plight have stepped up and helped out.
There were also small mercies along the way that changed everything, including the fact Brian was home that Friday and the flood took place during the middle of the day instead of the dead of night.
“Having trust in the Lord … even when we don’t think He’s with us, it’s evident when we look back that He was with us the whole time,” Brian said.
“I know everything got trashed, but the support from people… wow, we’re blessed. I’m overwhelmed by the support.”
A GoFundMe has been set up for the family to help them get re-established, and donations of any amount are deeply appreciated. Local businesses have pitched in as well, holding raffles in the Lashers’ benefit and offering help with cleanup. Local residents have come forward with offers of places to stay and items to replace the things they lost.
Brian says that one Bible verse in particular has stood out to him through all the chaos and comfort of the past few days:
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. – Luke 6:38
“It’s been on my heart since all the support has come in,” he said. “God uses people to bless people.”
Disclaimer: Brian and Sheri Lasher are relatives of Amanda Thomason.