Being prepared for Flash Floods

We all know about the threats that come with springtime thunderstorms. Strong winds, large, damaging hail, and of course tornadoes.

But one hazard that's often overlooked is flash flooding.

Here in the high plains, we are often very appreciative of any bit of moisture we can get, but when we get too much of a good thing, it can lead to a life-threatening situation.

Each year, more deaths occur nationwide due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm-related hazard, and the reason is simple: People underestimate the force and power of water.

For example, it takes just six inches of fast-moving water to knock a person off their feet. In addition, it takes just two feet of water to get a car, truck, or SUV to start floating.

Nearly half of all flooding fatalities occur in vehicles, which is why the National Weather Service started a campaign several years ago to make people aware of the dangers associated with flash flooding. It's called Turn Around, Don't Drown.

Our greatest flooding threat comes from training thunderstorms, or thunderstorms developing and moving over the same areas.

Like a train on a set of tracks, the heavy rainfall continues sometimes for hours.

A foot of rain or more could fall in situations like this and it doesn't take long for the water to start rising very quickly. Normally dry creek beds can turn into raging flows of water in just a matter of minutes.

When there's the possibility of seeing heavy rainfall, the National Weather Service will issue a Flash Flood Watch, indicating conditions are favorable for flash flooding.

When a flash flood warning is issued, that means flooding is either occurring now or is likely to happen very soon.

Here in the High Plains, low-water crossings, like the ones down in Palo Duro Canyon State Park and underpasses like this one on 10th street in downtown Amarillo, are just two prominent examples of locations where heavy rain can lead to a watery death trap.

But the good news is it doesn't take much to get out of harm's way.

When thunderstorms are in the area, stay alert to rapidly changing conditions.

When flash flood warnings are issued, don't wait to move to higher ground.

If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

Children should never play around high water or storm drains.

It's very easy to be swept away by fast-moving water.

When you're driving and come to a water-covered roadway, remember the depth of the water can be deceptive.

The road could be washed out and you could be stranded or trapped.

Remember the phrase: Turn around, don't drown.