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California Mudslides Turn a Toyota Prius Into an Urban Log Flume Ride

One way to make the Prius even more efficient.

The one-two punch of Southern California’s endless fire season followed by a massive rainstorm this week triggered mudslides that tore through several hillside communities on Tuesday, killing at least 17 people. But the death toll could have been higher were it not for a tough little Toyota Prius C ably doubling as a log flume ride to safety for two lucky individuals.

Firefighters responding to a mudslide in the hills near Burbank captured the crazy sight on Country Club Drive as a secondary flow carried the hybrid down the wall-lined street like a perfectly-designed water park ride. Scooting along at the crest of the surging mix of mud and water with its windshield wipers on high, it seems like the front wheels have just enough traction to allow the frantic driver to steer a bit and keep the Prius pointed downhill.

As it rides the flow downhill and out of sight, the person filming pans back up the road to reveal its transformation into a raging river. You have to wonder about all that water catching up to the Prius eventually—but thankfully, KTLA tracked down the driver, who survived the insanity with the Prius surprisingly intact.

Desionne Franklin told the station he and his girlfriend decided to evacuate after watching conditions worsen throughout the morning and receiving the order from authorities. But first they had to shovel out several feet of mud that had already accumulated in their driveway, and by the time they managed to leave, it was already too late.

“When I got halfway down the hill, I just felt this burst of water hit the back of the car,” he said.

As his girlfriend screamed “at the top of her lungs,” he did his best to steer the Prius around obstacles as the torrent pushed them downhill, somehow making it to the bottom and maneuvering out of the flow. That’s when they saw several other cars that had been previously washed down and smashed beyond recognition, driving home just how lucky they were to escape unscathed.

That includes the Prius—Franklin told KTLA that other than a few dings and scratches, the car seems to be running just fine.

“I didn’t even know a Prius could hold up in nothing like that,” he said.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a video showcasing the surprising toughness of Toyota’s iconic hybrid: This video from a massive flood in Houston shows an earlier model rolling through feet-deep waters like it’s nothing.