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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10 Things About Flash Floods

Original Article

A suitable topic since it is now "flashflooding" around Las Vegas today.  Here's ten things to know about flash floods.

  1. If you come from a place where it rains copiously (like Seattle) be aware that when it rains copiously in places that don't get much rain (like Las Vegas and other desert areas) you will probably end up in a flash flood situation.  Unless the ground is very permeable, the rain will have nowhere to go except to run along the surface of the ground where it will gather at low spots and form impromptu rivers in places there weren't rivers only a couple of hours before.
  2. Pay attention to flash flood warnings on TV and on the radio (and in messages to your cell phone from  organizations that send out such warnings).  This will give you a heads up on when and where flash floods may occur.
  3. Try to stay inside during flash floods.  These types of floods are usually accompanied by thunder and lightening storms.  It's just safer to be inside.
  4. Be super careful when driving.  Never drive through standing water--the road could be gone beneath the water or there could be stuff there you don't want to drive over.  Also, slow down--hydroplaning is not a good thing.  And of course, watch out for people who don't follow these rules.
  5. Stay away from the wash.  In places where flash flooding is common you will see empty drainage areas that will fill up with water when it floods.  These "washes" are just like rivers when they get water in them but unlike rivers, they are not places to swim or play.  The water is moving swiftly and full of junk and you can drown very easily so stay away from them.
  6. Stay away from impromptu washes.  Even if you don't see an "official" wash, racing water can pool into a river, down streets and other raceways, and can literally carry you and/or your car away.  Stay away from these places!
  7. If you don't know where to go during a flash flood, go to the highest ground you can find.  The water will tend to pool and run at the lowest areas (low lying intersections, running in a river down the slope of a mountain, etc.  Don't remain in these low-lying spots.
  8. Go elsewhere.  During a disaster, even something as small as a flash flood mini disaster, people automatically want to get home no no matter what.  If you come upon a flooding area, no matter how close you are to home, turn around and go elsewhere.  The possibility of dying in flood water is so big that is isn't worth the risk.
  9. Do not wade through flood water, no matter how shallow.  Besides the possibility that it could be running swiftly, knock you down and carry you away, there is all kinds of crap in flood water that you don't want on you: chemicals, oil from the street, sewage waste, snakes(!), etc. 
  10. Prepare your home for a flood.  If you know floods are on the horizon, take precautions in your home.  If lightening is forecasted, unplug your appliances and avoid taking a shower or bath during the storm.  If appropriate, put sandbags around areas of your home or yard that tend to flood.  If flooding is common in your area put things up: put your furnace and hot water tank up on a solid platform.  Consider flood insurance.
Basically be careful, use common sense, and don't underestimate the power of rushing water.

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