Friday, 21 June 2013

Flash Flood Safety

We have been seeing more rain than usual in Alberta this spring, and some areas have even experienced flooding. While we tend to think of floods as major nuisances more than anything else, you may surprised to learn that floods actually claim more lives than any other type of weather disaster. So while the weather event paparazzi are busy swarming hurricanes and tornadoes, floods sneak stealthily by, wreaking havoc (relatively) quietly. Of course, the less expected a disaster is, the more severe its consequences, since these consequences cannot be offset by advanced planning. This is why flash floods, in particular, present some of the worst types of flooding there are. They come on suddenly with little warning, stripping you of your control as a driver, and the effects are devastating: four out of every five flood-related fatalities involves a car.

Knowing the signs of an imminent flash flood can help to minimize its impact on you. Red flags should be raised if you notice that rain has been coming down for an unusually long period at an atypically high volume. The start of spring can be a particularly dangerous time for flash flooding because in addition to whatever heavy rainfall there may be, there is also the melt of thawing snow and ice, so be extra wary of driving in the rain when the slush starts melting. While we tend not to be affected by tropical storms in Alberta, if you happen to be visiting the east, you should know that tropical storms produce exactly the kind of rains that cause flash flooding, so if there is a warning of rains that are related to a tropical storm coming up from the southeast, avoid driving then if you can. One other way to detect approaching flash floods is to pay attention to the water levels in streams and rivers. If you notice that they are rapidly increasing, try to get home as soon as you safely can. Lastly, while not all flash floods can be anticipated, some of them can, so frequent weather checks will help you to catch warnings for those. Be extra aware of the conditions around you at night, since rising water levels are much harder to detect then. There isn't a safe way to drive through flash floods, so when you hear of one, be wise, and stay off of the road.

Areas that are particularly susceptible to flash flooding include hilly locations, such as the foothills. The shape of the terrain allows for water to collect rapidly at lower altitudes. If you find yourself on the road when this starts to happen, never, ever attempted to drive through the flooded area. Water that's only a foot a high can wash away a vehicle weighing two thirds of a tonne. It doesn't take much water to cause a lot of trouble. Don't try to race the flood either: move as quickly as you can to higher ground...and if your car won't cooperate and it stalls, turn it off, get out, and move as quickly as you safely can to higher ground.

Hopefully with these tips, you'll be able to avoid falling prey to the dangers of flash flooding, and instead be able to enjoy eagerly anticipated lush crops from our farmers this year, in light of rain we've seen this season.


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