Recent flash flooding in Payson, AZ, which claimed the lives of 9 people is reminiscent of the flash flooding that took place here in September of 2015. It is important to remember flash-flood safety as monsoon season is upon us, and flash floods are more likely to occur during this season.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “On average, more people are killed by flooding than by any other single severe weather hazard, including tornadoes, lightning, and hurricanes.” It is easy to underestimate the strengths of even shallow water, and the sudden nature of these events make them particularly dangerous if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Never enter a flooded roadway or flowing water, either by foot or in a car. Not only is it hard to judge the depth of the water, debris, contaminants, and strength of the flow can quickly lead to a bad situation. “As little as 6 inches of water can knock you off of your feet,” according to a NOAA fact sheet. There is also the potential for electrocution if the flood has downed or uprooted power lines.
Pay attention to flash flood warnings and always check the weather before going for a hike or other outdoor activities. If you find yourself in a low area in the event of a rainstorm, seek high ground immediately. Be aware that flash flooding can occur in drainages far from the rainstorm itself. Many have witnessed and fallen victim to flash flooding under clear skies where the rainstorm was over 30 miles away.
Don’t assume that being in a car will provide adequate protection, “More than half of all flood related deaths result from vehicles being swept downstream. Of these, many are preventable,” claims the NOAA. Under no circumstances should you drive around a barricade as the depth of the water is not always obvious, and the road could be washed away, that possibility being concealed by debris.