If you’ve spent much time out in nature, you may have heard people talk about flash flood warnings before. Maybe you live close to places where flash flooding happens, or maybe it’s only something you could possibly encounter on a vacation. If you’ve never really experienced anything like a flash flood yourself before though, you might find yourself wondering if they’re really that big of a deal.
To start, it helps to understand what causes flash floods and where they tend to happen. Flash flooding is usually caused by heavy precipitation in a short amount of time. When the ground is unable to soak up the water, the area may become flooded in a very short time, hence the name. Flash floods tend to occur in urban areas where there isn’t much soil to soak up the water and sewer systems are unable to handle the deluge. They can also happen along coastlines, rivers, and dry creek beds. Slot canyons can be especially dangerous.
The biggest difference between regular flooding and a flash flood is the speed at which a flash flood takes place. If there are less than six hours between the rainfall and the onset of flooding, you have a flash flood on your hands. You may not have much warning at all that the area where you are is about to become flooded aside from the weather warning.
What to Do
You may not have much warning before you’re in very serious danger. If you have any suspicion that you might encounter a flash flood, get to higher ground immediately. If you hear something that sounds like loud wind, a train, or thunder, a flash flood could be heading your way, especially if you are in a canyon. Keep an eye out for rapidly rising water, which is also an indicator. Never approach flood waters or attempt to cross them. Flash floods are fast, and it only takes a few inches of water to sweep you off your feet. They also tend to carry a lot of debris with them, which makes them even more perilous.
Flash floods can be incredibly dangerous. It’s especially important to pay attention to flash flood warnings when they’re given. If you’re going to be out in an area where flash flooding could occur, make sure you know what the weather will be like and check regularly for flash flood warnings. It’s far better to change your plans last minute than to risk your life for them.
Rivers can be fun to play in, but are they safe? Read this next: Tips for Identifying Safe Rivers to Play In.