Except for heat related fatalities, more deaths occur from flooding than any other weather hazard. Why? Most people fail to realize the power of water.
Turn Around, Don’t Drown
National Weather Service data shows that nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle-related. Ironically, many drivers rescued from flood waters report that they were in a hurry to get home-home to safety-as a reason for tempting the danger of driving into water.
Even slow moving water can pose a serious threat. For example, six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock a person off his or her feet, and most cars will float (and be swept away) in only 18-24 inches of moving water. Trucks and SUVs offer little addition protection.
The safest practice during a flood or flash flood is to avoid driving onto water-covered roadways, even if the water depth appears low. Water depth is very difficult to estimate on roads, especially at night, when many flood deaths occur. In the case of a flash flood, waters rise very quickly. Water that covered a road by only 6 inches at one moment could easily be 2 to 3 feet deep just seconds later.
Escaping from a vehicle once flood waters have carried it away is very difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible. Among the problems: water pressure on the outside of the vehicle prevents occupants from opening doors; the vehicle could overturn into a ditch or ravine and become inundated; and even if a person were able to get out of the vehicle, the strong current and undertow of the flood waters would likely be too much to overcome in attempting to swim to safety.
If your car stalls in a flooded area, DO NOT remain in the car. Abandon it as soon as possible and seek higher ground. Floodwaters can rise rapidly and sweep a car (and its occupants) away. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.
Rising water: Is Your Family Ready?
The best protection against any natural disaster is a well-thought out response plan. AAA encourages you to discuss various scenarios with your family, and rehearse the actions you’ll take when disaster strikes. To help prepare for the worst, we recommend a handy, easy to follow guide prepared by the Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340128_Flood.pdf
Responding to Flood Watches and Warnings
Learn what flood related warnings mean and how to react when you hear them.
What it means: Flooding is possible in and around the watch area.
What to do: This is your cue to be prepared in the event a warning is issued. You may wish to move valuable items, including furniture, to higher ground.
What it means: Flooding is occurring or imminent.
What to do: Stay tuned to radio, television outlets for further information. Evacuate if told to do so.
Flash Flood Watch
What it means: Flash floods are possible in and around the watch area.
What to do: Be prepared to act quickly in the event a warning is issued.
Flash Flood Warning
What it means: Flash flooding is occurring or imminent.
What to do: Evacuate and seek higher ground immediately. Seconds could be the difference between life and death.
Urban and small stream flooding advisory
What it means: Flooding is occurring or imminent in urban areas, but is expected to be more of an inconvenience rather than life-threatening. Flooding of low-lying and poor drainage areas is likely and small streams may spill over banks.
When Flooding is Imminent
The safety of your family is the most important consideration.
- Put your family preparedness plan into action.
- Contact your family members and confirm plan of action and alternatives.
- Confirm your family emergency kit is complete and ready.
- Move emergency supply items and valuables to highest inside part of your residence.
- Secure your pets.
- Make sure you have an adequate water supply in case service is cutoff.
- If you have time, and can do so safely, move vehicles to higher ground.
- Your safest option is to stay put. However, if you must evacuate to a safe location or a shelter, take your emergency supply kit and tell your family check-in contact you’re leaving.