Flash floods can be deceptively dangerous. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and people driving cars and trucks can find themselves in a life-threatening situation before they have a chance to react. Safety and care are the best way to avoid being injured or killed in a flash flood.
The term "flash flood" can be a bit of a misnomer because it brings to mind a sudden flood that comes out of nowhere, which is not always the case. Flash floods are floods that develop in under six hours, sometimes in just a few minutes and without warning. They tend to occur in low-lying areas that don't have adequate drainage. Flash floods are most common in the spring, which brings a combination of melting ice and snow, high river levels, and severe weather that includes torrential rains. Flash floods can be caused by heavy rain, ice jams in rivers and other waterways, and dam or levee breaks.
Flash floods often have fast-moving water. That increases the danger for anyone trying to cross an area of flash flooding. Most flash flood deaths occur when people are swept away by the floodwaters while trying to drive or walk across them. Fast-moving water does not need to be very deep to carry away something as large as an SUV. Even water of 1-2 feet in depth is sufficient to begin moving large objects; six inches can be enough to knock over a person and send them tumbling downstream.
In short, the best way to remain safe when encountering waters from flash flood is to turn around and find an alternate route. You or your vehicle may be swept away if you try to cross the water. Even if your vehicle isn't swept away, the floodwater can cause it to stall, leaving you stranded in the middle of floodwaters that may begin to rise around your vehicle now that you've blocked the water. If that happens, get out of your vehicle as fast as possible and to high ground before the vehicle is swept away.
If you do find yourself caught in a flash flood, either as a pedestrian or in a vehicle, the first thing to do is not to panic. If you're in a vehicle and it starts to submerge below the floodwaters, stay calm and wait for the vehicle to fill with water before trying to open the door and exit. Hold your breath, open the door, and swim to the surface. If you're not in a vehicle when overtaken by floodwaters, point your feet downstream and always try to go over obstacles, not under them where you may become stuck under water.By Harley Erbe