When the Waters Rise, Will You Know What to Do?

Floods are among the most common weather hazards in the United States. They can happen anywhere at any time of year.

Densely populated areas have a higher risk for flash floods than rural areas. Flash floods can occur within minutes or hours of a heavy rainfall, and waters can rise as high as 30 feet or more. Even small streams and creeks can flood rapidly and cause damage. Flash floods are usually caused by slow-moving thunderstorms.

According to the National Weather Service, "Flash floods are short-term events occurring within six hours of the causative event (heavy rain, dam break, levee failure, rapid snowmelt and ice jams) and often within two hours of the start of high-intensity rainfall."

Flash floods can move homes and cars, uproot trees and destroy bridges. Because floods happen with little to no warning, residents in low-lying areas are particularly at risk. According to the American Red Cross, flash floods are the No. 1 weather-related killer in the U.S.

Almost half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle related, according to the National Weather Service. If you're driving and approach a water-covered road, turn around. Just 6 inches of water can stall a vehicle, and 2 feet can float most cars, trucks and SUVs.

Here are some other tips to stay high and dry:

● Know your proximity to rivers, streams and dams
● During heavy rain, avoid underpasses, underground parking garages and basements
● Avoid hiking or camping if thunderstorms are predicted
● Develop an evacuation plan for your family
● Don't walk in water above your ankles; you can be swept off your feet in as little as 6 inches of rushing water
● Turn off the electricity and other utilities

Additional Sources

American Red Cross
National Weather Service

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