Flash Flood Safety


Greetings and salutations. This short presentation
talks about flash floods in Arizona, and how to stay safe when out and about during the
monsoon. My name is Glen Sampson and I work for the National Weather Service in Tucson,
Arizona. Thunderstorms routinely produce heavy rains
during the monsoon, which flood low lying areas of a road. When approaching a flooded
roadway with flowing water, always remember “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”. This limerick
is the most important message of this video. The majority of flash flood deaths in Arizona
are associated with vehicles entering water. After entering a flooded roadway, the driver
loses control when the vehicle begins to float and everyone in the vehicle is swept downstream.
Turning around and not entering the water can save you and your loved ones from drowning,
so don’t forget – “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”. Let’s look at the leading causes of weather-related
fatalities in Arizona. As you might expect, heat is the leading cause of death. This is
followed by flash floods, dust storms and lighting. Therefore flash floods are the second
largest cause of weather-related deaths in Arizona. This picture is a typical example
of what happens, and is of a flash flood which occurred in South Tucson. As you can see,
flash floods may occur when least expected and on the normally dry roads you travel every
day. When do most flash floods occur? This bar
graph shows the number of flash floods which occur for each month of the year. January
is on the left side of the graph and December is on the right side. As you can see, the
months of July, August and September have the largest number of floods. These floods
are associated with the monsoon moisture in the Southwest.
From the last graph we know the months of the year when most flash floods occur, but
what time of day are they most prevalent? This next bar graph shows how many floods
occur in each hour of the day. The left side of the graph starts at 1 AM. Noon is in the
middle and midnight is on the far right side. As you can see the frequency of a flash flood
begins to increase around noon with a peak in activity between 5 and 7 PM. After 7 PM
we see a slow decline in frequency through midnight. While this graph shows when most
flash floods occur, the other important aspect of this graph is that it shows a flash flood
can occur at any time of the day. As with any type of hazardous weather, the
best action to take is to go inside a building. The best method for staying safe during any
severe weather is to not be out in it. If you don’t need to be outside, stay inside.
If you are out and about, be aware of the weather forecast for that day. If the threat
of thunderstorms is increasing, this information helps maintain your safety awareness. Keep
track of what weather is occurring nearby by listening to a radio or simply by taking
a cell phone with you. Many cell phones automatically alert you when a flash flood warning has been
issued for your area. These phone alerts are based on the location of the phone, not your
phone number or billing location. Most flash flood deaths occur in vehicles.
When approaching a flooded roadway or low water crossing, remember “Turn Around, Don’t
Drown”. Be especially careful at night when water depth and road conditions are harder
to see. Take the time to find an alternate route. People won’t mind you arriving late
when you explain to them you were avoiding being a flash flood fatality. This picture is of the damage a July storm
caused to Silverbell Road near Tucson. As you can see, a flash flood will not only sweep
vehicles downstream, but can completely wash out sections of the road. Many times a driver
may be aware of water flowing across a road, but they cannot see that the road itself may
be gone. Please remember, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”. The last piece of safety advice is to keep
children away from washes and water channels when heavy rain is in the area. Washes can
go from dry to full in a matter of seconds. A wash is not a safe area during the monsoon
season. For the latest weather forecasts from the
National Weather Service, you can check weather.gov/tucson. Additional monsoon safety information can
be found at monsoonsafety.org. You can also find the National Weather Service on Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube. Be sure to remember — “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”. Hopefully you found
this flash flood safety information useful, and will have an enjoyable monsoon. Take care
and be safe.

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