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Flooding The Number One Cause of Weather Related Death In The US
Floods and flash floods are the number one cause of deaths associated by weather systems and thunderstorms in the United States, with more than 140 fatalities recorded every year. Most of these deaths occur at night and most of the victims are people who become trapped in their cars or trucks as the flood waters continue to rise.
Floods can occur anywhere there are bodies of water that may overflow as the result of excess rain over a given period of time, and flash floods occur in mountain canyons, valleys, and dry washes. They may also crop up in locations where houses or towns are built close to streams and rivers.
When you consider that it only takes about six inches of moving water to knock a grown man down, and that about two feet of water is enough to float a vehicle, the danger of flood waters becomes apparent. Flash floods can easily pick up cars, campers, and mobile homes, as well as rolling large rocks, knocking over trees, and ripping through roads and bridges.
The National Weather Service says that flash flood watches may mean flooding is imminent, and it is important to stay alert and watch for thunderstorms, keeping a watchful eye on rivers, streams, and creeks. All of these may rapidly overflow and create flash flood conditions. If they do begin to rise, then get to the high ground as rapidly as possible. A flash flood warning means that flooding is taking place, and in the case of flash floods, you may only have a matter of minutes to respond. Get to higher ground immediately. If you are in a vehicle, abandon it.
Flash flood preparation means having a plan, knowing where the high ground is and how to get there as quickly as possible. Stay away from storm drains and irrigation ditches, dry washes, and other waterways. These locations are dangerous even in good conditions, and when the rain starts to fall, the water can get deep very fast, with a strong current.
Campers should be on guard if they see or hear thunder and lightning in nearby hills, and be ready to move at the first sign of flooding.
If you are driving, look out for flooding at bridges and dips in the road, and never drive where water is over bridges or roads. You may find yourself swept away by a rapid and rising current. Leave waterlogged vehicles and move to higher ground.
You should also be especially careful at night, when the dangers of flooding are less obvious. Keep tuned to TV and radio reports, even after the flood is over. Keep in mind that the flood may have spread and other nearby areas may be affected.