One of the most frightening experiences you can find yourself in is being caught in a flash flood. This is because these natural disasters happen within a short amount of time and there might be little or no advance warning. Flash floods often catch people unaware, and they can sweep you or your loved ones away and cause significant damage to your home and property. Flash floods typically occur after heavy rainfall or a break in a dam or levee, although you might not ever see a drop of rain in your particular area. In order to increase your chances of surviving a flash flood, you need to be prepared beforehand and know what to do when the water comes.
Flash floods are probable after a large amount of rainfall whether it is due to thunderstorms, tropical storms, or hurricanes. They can happen anywhere at any time, and their occurrence is due mainly to topography. If you live within the flood plain of a river or stream, you might be especially vulnerable. The U.S. Southwest, including parts of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, is extremely susceptible to flash flooding, so keep that in mind when hiking, camping, and enjoying the outdoors in these areas. Knowing what to do could save your life and those of the others around you.
The first step in surviving a flash flood is to know the topography of your local area. Determine where the closest high ground is and select a route of how to get there quickly in an emergency. Also, local disaster relief agencies might have prearranged meeting places in case of floods. Keep an eye or ear out for any flood watches and warnings during a storm. When the risk of flooding is high, get to higher ground or safe zones as soon as possible, either by foot or by car. If you see or hear a large wall of water, it is time to move. Time is of the essence during a flash food.
During the actual flood, do not try to cross moving water; avoid it if possible. Keep away from low lying areas like ravines, underpasses, and basements. If you are in your car, do not try to cross more than six inches of water in your vehicle. You can lose control of it fast, and your vehicle could be swept away. If your vehicle gets stuck, get out as soon as you can so you are not trapped inside the vehicle with the water rising inside. If you are on foot and swept away by the water, stay calm and point your feet downstream. This way you have a better chance of being able to navigate around obstacles. Try your best to navigate to higher ground so you can get out of the water.
The key to surviving a flash flood is to get to higher ground as soon as possible. You can watch TV or listen to the radio for information, but if there is any possibility of a flash flood, get moving. If you find yourself stranded in a building or hilltop surrounded by water, the best thing to do is to stay put and wait for someone to rescue you. It also helps to prepare an emergency kit beforehand, preferably in a large dry bag or portable waterproof container that you can grab as you are leaving. Your emergency kit will be your lifeline until help arrives.