YUKON — The water in front of Chris Novy's car looked smooth, no more than a few inches deep.
Novy, a 30-year veteran storm spotter and assistant chief engineer at KOKH-25, knew he should turn around anyway. He thought he could pull a U-turn in an adjacent parking lot without incident.
He was wrong.
Novy's vehicle plunged into a swirling drainage ditch concealed by the placid surface waters near the intersection of W Main and S Ranchwood Boulevard, making him one of many drivers surprised by the flooded roads after Friday's tornadoes and pelting rains.
The storm spotter was pulled out of his car by the current and almost drowned before being saved by a Yukon police officer and three roofers.
“I didn't even realize what the danger was,” Novy said.
The EF5 tornado Novy had been watching earlier in the day had tracked to the northwest, near El Reno. He thought the weather threat was over as he drove to the television station about 7 p.m.
“The EF5 tornado wasn't a danger to me, but it was the flooding, the more common thing, that was harder to see,” Novy said. “Making that turn into the creek was a near-fatal mistake.”
After the nose of his car was sucked underwater, Novy felt himself flipping upside down as water roared into the vehicle's interior.
Yukon police Sgt. Matt Fairchild was watching the scene from down the block. When the car disappeared, Fairchild feared the worst.
“My first thought when I saw it happen was, ‘This guy is dead. There's no way he is going to make it out of that culvert,'” Fairchild said.
Fairchild still ran toward the submerged vehicle.
Across the street, Angel Salazar, Andy Flores and Manny Guerrero saw the drama unfold from Salazar Roofing & Construction, their place of employment where they had taken cover from the storms. When Fairchild took off running, they left the building and followed him.
As the four men sprinted parallel to the current, the water that had sucked Novy's vehicle into the ditch moments earlier spit him out of his car on the other side of the culvert. That's when Novy heard someone yelling.
“Hey, buddy! Swim to me! Swim to me!” Fairchild called, jumping in the flooded ditch.
Slowly, Novy cut across the current and grabbed Fairchild's hand. The police sergeant was now waist-deep in the muddy waters.
As Fairchild began to loose his own footing, Salazar, Flores and Guerrero caught his shirt and pulled him out of the water.
“He could have easily been swept away by the creek,” Salazar said. “I'm glad we were there.”
Fairchild was honored Tuesday with a City Manager's Commendation during the Yukon City Council meeting for helping save Novy.
With the death toll from last week's tornadoes and flooding still climbing, Novy said he is thankful to be alive.
“There are so many hazards out there that people don't realize, and there may not always be somebody like Matt to pull you out,” Novy said. “It could have happened to anybody. Fortunately, I lived to tell about it.”