Out of all the natural disasters that occur across the United States flooding causes the most deaths. These deaths are, for the most part, caused specifically by flash floods. How are flash floods different than regular floods? We know about regular flooding. It occurs over days or even weeks. It is typically caused by an excess of rain or other type of precipitation. It can also be caused by the melting of snow. When flooding occurs it is over a period of time. Flash flooding, on the contrary, is not over a long period of time. Instead, it occurs rapidly. Its process is sped up by an excessive amount of rain in an extremely short period of time. It typically occurs in less than 6 hours.
What is a Flash Flood? Why Do They Occur?
There are two main components that contribute to a flash flood. The first component is rain intensity. This is the rate, or how quickly, the rain is coming down. The second component is rain duration. How long is this excessive rain occurring for? Flash floods can occur in hours or even minutes. Flash floods can occur from slow moving thunderstorms that hit the same area several times. They can also occur from tropical storms or hurricanes.
Another situation that can lead to a flash flood is when a dam or levy fails to operate the way it should. If a dam breaks then there will be an immense amount of water in a short amount of time. A similar scenario can occur if there is a an ice jam that becomes loose and ruptures. No matter the situation flash floods can be extremely dangerous and even deadly.
Due to the fact that flash flooding can trigger mudslides there can be other damage caused by these natural disasters. Rapidly rising water is dangerous it itself but when there is debris being carried by this quickly moving water it can wreak even more havoc. Flash floods are known to move objects – even cars. Being caught in a flash flood can be extremely dangerous.
Unfortunately, even though these are considered natural disasters, mankind is partly to blame. As we disrupt the landscape to build parking lots, strip malls, and other businesses we are stripping the earth of being able to absorb water. The ground loses its ability to absorb rainfall. When this happens we are more likely to experience a flash flood because the rain has nowhere to go.
How Can I Be Prepared?
It can be hard to predict when a flash flood may occur. Even so, there are several things you can do to prepare in case there is a flash flood warning in your area. The first step to preparing for a flash flood is to know if your home is in a flood plain. You need to know how likely it is for you to experience one of these natural disasters. Depending on where you live you may be more prone to encountering one.
When severe weather hits you should always pay close attention to the weather services. If a flash flood watch is issued that means that the conditions are favorable for a flash flood. If a warning occurs that means that a flash flood has been seen or detected in your area.
Once a flash flood watch or warning is issued there are several things you can do to help prepare yourself. Remove any outdoor furniture or tightly secure it. You won’t want it to be moved or washed away in the event of a flash flood. Next, you will want to remove any valuable items from the lowest floor in your home. If you have a basement this is when you should lift things off the floor or bring them upstairs. If there is no basement in your home, again just raise items off of the floor or bring them to higher ground. Any remaining items will risk being damaged by the water.
You will also want to unplug any electrical items that you can. If you don’t do this you run the risk of electrocution if a flash flood occurs. Finally, one of the most important things you can do is have a flood emergency bag prepared ahead of time. We will break down what to include in this emergency bag below.
What Should I Do During a Flash Flood?
If you do encounter a flash flood in your area there are several things you should do to stay safe. First, grab your emergency flood bag. Inside your bag you should have several items that will be essential to your survival and safety during this natural disaster.
Your emergency flood bag should include a first aid kit, a radio of some sort to stay up to date with the weather conditions, and any medications you or your family may need. You will also need to include bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights and batteries as well as multi-purpose tools. If you have pets you should also have a plan for them as well as extra food and water.
It may also be a wise idea to have a list of contact information that has been laminated. Having a list of addresses and phone numbers may be important in an emergency. Be sure to laminate them or keep them tightly sealed in a plastic bag in case it gets wet. Ideally you will store these items in a water proof bag and in an area that is easily reachable. You may need to grab it quickly.
In addition to having a kit ready to go in case of an emergency you will also need a plan. Where will you go if a flash flood warning is issued? Will you remain in your home or travel elsewhere? If you do plan on traveling, although it may not be advised, you should have several plans in place. Many roads and transportation methods may be hindered by the flash flood so do not rely on this option.
You may plan to leave but find that it is not safe to travel. It is advised that if you are in a vehicle and encounter a flash flood that you turn around. Never try to drive through it. Running water can lift up and relocate a car.
Never try to walk through a flash flood. The average person can be pulled down and swept away in just 6 inches of water. In addition to this concern you may never really know how deep the water is before walking through it. Instead of trying to travel you should turn around and go back to safety.
In addition, no matter how tempting it may be you should never play in flood waters. Flash floods often contain debris and/or contaminants. Playing, swimming, boating, etc. in this water can be extremely harmful. Remain calm and indoors on the highest level possible. Keep a radio of some sort with you, preferably a battery powered or solar radio. This will keep you in connection with the weather patterns so you will know when it is safe to leave.
It is extremely important to plan ahead for natural disasters. Waiting until it is already occurring will not be enough time to effectively plan. Get started on researching if your home is at risk for a flash flood and begin making your emergency kit as soon as possible.