Flood vs. Flash Flood
Flash flooding is a result of heavy localized rainfall such as that from slow moving intense thunderstorms. Flash floods often result from small creeks and streams overflowing during heavy rainfall. These floods often become raging torrents of water which rip through river beds, city streets, coastal sections, and valleys or canyons, sweeping everything with them. Flash flooding usually occurs within six hours of a heavy rain event. Flash floods contribute to on average 88 deaths per year.
On the other hand, the more long-term "flood" is a natural and inevitable part of life along our country's rivers. These floods occur seasonally with general rains or torrential rains associated with tropical storms, that later drain in river basins and fill them with an overabundance of water. General flooding occurs in urban areas and areas with poor drainage after heavy rain.
- Know your area's flood risk – if unsure, call your local American Red Cross chapter at (205) 600-5936 or emergency management office. If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
- Listen to local radio or TV stations for flood information. Floods can take several hours to days to develop.
- A flood watch means a flood is possible in your area. A flood warning means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area.
Plan & Get Ready
Prolonged rainfall over several days can cause a river or stream to overflow and flood the surrounding area. A flash flood from a broken dam or levee or after intense rainfall of one inch (or more) per hour often catches people unprepared. Regardless, the rule for being safe is simple: head for the high ground and stay away from the water. Even a shallow depth of fast-moving flood water provides more force than most people imagine. The most dangerous thing you can do is to try walking, swimming, or driving through such swift water.
Still, you can take steps to prepare for these types of emergencies. Have various members of the family do each of the items on the checklist below. Then hold a family meeting to discuss and finalize your Family Disaster Plan.