Are You Ready For A Flash Flood While Traveling?
Flash floods have been best described as “more water than you want in less time than you have”, which is a remarkably true analogy. Flash floods form almost instantaneously, or so it seems, and have the ability to cause enormous damage to life and property. Before your next trip, ask yourself the following questions in order to be better prepared.
Are you in a flood prone area? This is the knowledge that you need, especially if you plan on setting up a campsite. The area may or may not be marked as a flood danger, and without the proper warning, you may find yourself amidst flood waters before you know what is happening. Ask around about the area’s history, and look for evidence of previous floods, such as large logs jumbled up in a creek or riverbed, and high water marks in evidence on river banks and trees. Canyons and gullies will have water stains on the walls and debris hanging from bushes and low branches.
Is flooding in the forecast? Check the local weather before hiking or camping, and if a flood watch is in effect, know that the potential is there for torrential rains to create flash flooding conditions within 6 to 24 hours. Consider postponing your trip a day or two just to be safe. When you are visiting a flood-prone city, local weather reports are available from the local visitor’s bureau.
Are there cell phone or radio towers? The risks of camping in remote areas without proper access to a cell phone or radio are considerable. 75% of flash flood-related fatalities occur at night; rapidly rising water is more difficult to detect in the darkness. Campers are encouraged to have a weather radio on hand from which to receive weather alerts. Campgrounds can also provide information on whether or not they are located near a radio and cell tower.
Should you try driving in a flood? The answer is no. Any time that the road has disappeared underwater, you should turn around and try to find another route. Water is deceptive and the road may not even be there anymore. It only takes about six inches of water to lift a vehicle. If you end up caught in rising water, abandon your vehicle for higher ground. If you become trapped, wait until the car partially fills with water. The pressure should equalize and the doors should open. Also, never drive around a “Road Closed” sign. That sign is there for a simple reason: to keep you safe.
Do you have an evacuation plan? It is important not only to know where you are headed when traveling but also where you are going if you have to leave prematurely. If you are staying in a hotel, ask them about evacuation routes and if they have backup generators. Once you are at your destination, go ahead and fill up your gas tank. Should you have to leave town suddenly, you do not want to be caught with a half empty or nearly empty tank.
Proper preparation and knowledge beforehand can go a long way toward keeping you and your family safe in the event of a flood.