Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the United States. Here are some of the things to look for in an area that might have a flash flood.
by Peter Kummerfeldt
Most flash flooding is caused by slow-moving thunderstorms repeatedly moving over the same area, or heavy rains from hurricanes and tropical storms. The two key elements that contribute to flash flooding are rainfall intensity and duration. Intensity is the rate of rainfall, and duration is how long the rain lasts.
Topography, soil conditions, and ground cover also play an important role. Flash floods can occur within a few minutes or may occur within hours of heavy rainfall. Rapidly rising water can reach heights of thirty feet or more and can trigger catastrophic mud slides.
Here are some safety rules:
- Pay attention tothe warnings and watches announced by the National Weather Service and your local radio. You will not always have a warning that these deadly, sudden floods are coming. Many deaths occur because the victims waited too long to take action or were distracted while trying to save personal belongings.
- Never try to walk, swim, or drive through swift water. If you come upon flood waters, STOP! TURN AROUND AND GO ANOTHER WAY. Even six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet and water two feet deep will float your car!
- Plan Ahead. Determine ahead of time where you would go if told to evacuate. Select higher ground where you could climb above thehigh water. Many flash floods occur at night, greatly complicating evacuation efforts!
- The sound of distant thunder could forewarn you of flooding.
- Watch for quickly rising water and if present take action quickly
A weather radio is the best means to receive warnings from the National Weather Service which continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings
and forecasts. Depending on topography, the average range for these radios is about 40 miles. Purchase a radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.
Stay informed about the weather by listening to NOAA weather radio, commercial radio, and televisionfor the latest watches warnings, and advisories. Plan your activities around the forecasted weather. Decide what you will do when the weather deteriorates and implement the plan before you are in danger.
Weather can make you very uncomfortable but, with some preparation, it shouldn’t kill you!
Peter grew up in Kenya, East Africa and came to America in 1965 and joined the U.S. Air Force. He is a graduate of the Air Force Survival Instructor Training School and has served as an instructor at the Basic Survival School, Spokane, Washington; the Arctic Survival School, Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Jungle Survival School, Republic of the Philippines. For twelve years, Peter was the Survival Training Director at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. He retired from the Air Force in 1995 after 30 years of service.
In 1992, concerned with the number of accidents that were occurring in the outdoors annually and the number of tourists traveling overseas who were involved in unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening incidents Peter created OutdoorSafe.com
He is the author of Surviving a Wilderness Emergency and has addressed over 20,000 people as the featured speaker at numerous seminars, conferences and national conventions.
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