Flooding and Flood Safety – Severe Weather Awareness Week

This week has been deemed as Severe Weather Awareness Week for the state of Tennessee. Alabama’s SWAW was at the beginning of the month (for the first time ever, and that’s why we weren’t fully ready LOL). This is a week set aside every year just before the heart of the spring severe weather season in a particular local area where the weather community pushes education on topics related to severe weather awareness and preparedness.

Today’s topic is Flooding and Flood Safety. While flooding doesn’t get as much attention as things like hurricanes and tornadoes, in most years on average, it often kills more people in the U.S. than either. Flooding is a weather threat that can occur any time of the year, and you don’t have to be near a large body of water. Flooding can occur from very heavy rain over a short period of time causing flash flooding, from too much rain over a more gradual period of time causing areal flooding or flooding of lakes, rivers, or streams, or it can come because of infrastructure failure in water systems such as dam failures or levee breaches.

One important way of being ready for flooding threats and understanding when they may be possible is having an understanding of the watch and warning system. A watch means that conditions are favorable for that type of weather to happen within the given time that the watch is valid. A warning means that the weather threat is happening NOW or SOON and you need to TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION.

The easiest way to stay safe from flood waters, naturally, is to stay away from them! You are especially vulnerable if on foot or in a vehicle. It takes only 6 inches of quickly moving water to sweep away a person, and only 12 inches of rapidly moving water to sweep away most cars. Even SUVs, vans, and most trucks can be swept away with just 18 to 24 inches of fast moving water. Flooding and flash flooding is especially dangerous on the roads at night because you can’t tell how deep the water is, and you usually can’t see the condition of the road surface underneath the flood waters (that’s often the case in the daytime too). Never drive into flooded areas. The National Weather Service slogan for that is “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!” and it is the best advice.

Flood waters can often contain over risks such as washed away debris, chemicals and natural contaminants and bacteria, and dangerous insects and animals that may already be angered or in a state of shock from the situation they are in and may be more prone to bite (snakes, for example). Flood waters can hide downed trees, jagged rocks, and debris such as broken glass, nails, boards, and other sharp objects. If the flooding is occurring during or after severe storm or tornado damage, there may also be the risk of downed live power lines interacting with the flood waters.

Being ready for flooding (and any other severe weather threats your local area may face through the year) is a first big step in staying safe. Be proactive! Here are some general preparation tips for you to go through ahead of time while the weather is quiet or when you know there is a flooding threat in the forecast within the upcoming few days at some point in the future.

Severe weather of all forms is a natural way of life here in the Tennessee Valley. We must do our part to take personal responsibility for ourselves and our families and prepare for it ahead of time!

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Ben Luna

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