Flash Flood Safety Tips

Are You Prepared?

In hilly terrain, flash floods can strike with little or no advance warning. Distant rain may be channeled into gullies and ravines, turning a quiet stream into a rampaging torrent in minutes. Never camp on low ground next to streams since a flash flood can catch you while you're asleep. 

Take Caution

  • Do not drive through flooded areas, even if it looks shallow enough to cross. The large majority of deaths due to flash flooding occur with people driving through flooded areas. Water only a foot deep can displace a 1500-pound vehicle! Two feet of water can easily carry most automobiles. Roads concealed by water may not be intact. 
  • Do not cross flowing stream on foot where water is above your ankles. Do not allow children to play around streams, drainage ditches or viaducts, storm drains, or other flooded areas!
  • Be especially cautious at night. It's harder to recognize water danger then. Don't try to outrace a flood on foot. If you see or hear it coming, move to higher ground immediately.
  • Be familiar with the land features where you live, work, and play. It may be in a low area , near a drainage ditch or small stream, or below a dam. Be prepared!
  • Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest statements, watches and warnings concerning heavy rain and flash flooding in your area, report it to the National Weather Service.

Know Your Terrain

  • Rugged and often steep terrain only sets the stage for rapid storm water runoff across the state. The biggest contributing factor is the summertime increase in thunderstorms capable of producing heavy downpours in short periods of time. People are often surprised at how quickly a normally dry arroyo can become a raging torrent, unlike the threat of large hail and tornadoes.
  • After distant heavy rains, arroyos and streams downstream from the actual rain area will carry the storm water runoff for many hours. If you see heavy rain even many miles upstream from your area, remain alert for water in the arroyos and across low water crossings for at least six to 12 hours.
  • You can reduce the chances of becoming a flash flood victim by knowing how to recognize these weather hazards as they develop and by observing the following simple safety rules.

Stay Alert

  • During periods of thunderstorms, always remain alert to heavy rains in your immediate area or upstream from your location. It does not have to be raining at your location for flash flooding to occur.
  • Even six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet, and a depth of two feet will float your car! Never try to walk, swim, or drive through such swift water.
  • If you come upon flood waters, stop! Turn around and go another way. Most flash flood deaths occur in automobiles. Plan your camping site carefully. Avoid stream areas where water can rush downstream from distant rains.
  • Remember it’s harder to recognize dangerous flash flooding at night. Keep children away from arroyos.
  • Waiting 15 to 30 minutes, or until high water recedes, is a simple safety measure.