How to Survive a Flash Flood

How to Survive If You’re on Foot

As soon as you receive word of a flash flood, immediately head for higher ground and stay put until help arrives. If you see floodwaters, follow the NOAA’s advice and “turn around, don’t drown.” That means avoiding all moving water, even if it seems to be very shallow. Just six inches of moving water can trip you up and knock you over. You could hit your head, break a bone, or worse, get swept away into much deeper, faster-moving water. Anything deeper than your ankles is bad news, especially at night when it’s much harder to see.

If you have no choice but to walk through water, go where the water is shallow and isn’t moving, then use a sturdy stick to check the depth as you walk, as well the firmness of the ground underneath. Mud and other slick surfaces can also easily topple you over. If you have children with you, carry them and keep them out of the water at all times if possible. As you make your way to higher ground, avoid touching or getting near any electrical equipment since you’re probably wet or standing in water. And if floodwaters have reached your home, do not use your home’s power.

If you get swept away by floodwaters, Desmond Johnson of Utah’s Unified Fire Authority’s Swift Water Rescue team suggests you grab or climb onto something as soon as you are able. As you move through the water, float backwards on your back so you can push away from any large debris flowing down the water toward you, and always go over obstacles, never under. Once you’ve got a good grip on something, keep your feet pointed downstream, then yell loudly for help and wave an arm if possible. Johnson says it’s hard for rescue teams to spot people trapped in the water, so anything you can do to make yourself more noticeable is a big help. Don’t give up—keep yelling and waving until you’re rescued.

How to Survive If You’re in a Car

Driving can also be incredibly dangerous during a flash flood. FEMA guidelines suggest that as little as six inches of water can cause loss of control and possibly stall your vehicle, a foot of water can actually float many vehicles, and two feet of rushing water is enough to carry SUVs and pickup trucks away. Not to mention, it can take as little as a quarter-inch of water to cause hydroplaning if you’re driving fast enough. Slow down and keep your eyes peeled.

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