Exploring the great outdoors can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. Learning how to survive a flash flood should be basic knowledge for outdoors men. You may think you found a perfect place for camping, but it could be the worst decision you are making. Your geographical environment, weather conditions and topography of the local terrain should be carefully considered. Otherwise, you camp could be washed away by a powerful flash flood.
The risks from flash flood usually come as a result of the poor choices you are making when setting up camp in the wilderness. Even more, the rash decisions you make when encountering rising waters in familiar areas will cost you dearly.
Flash floods are the most common natural disaster in our country. They strike hard and fast, and your response time should be adequate. To survive a flash flood, everyone should understand how this disaster occurs and what to do to protect themselves.
When it’s more than just rain
There is a key element to help you figure out how to make a difference between a flash flood and regular flooding. It’s actually the time it takes to occur, which is usually within a six-hour time span. This short time frame will catch most people by surprise, and they are unable to react properly.
While persistent and intense precipitations are the main reasons why flash floods are formed, numerous reasons can form an unstoppable liquid fury.
When precipitation falls rapidly, in a short amount of time, on rain-saturated soil or very dry soil a flash flood will form, washing down everything in its path. Another reason why flash floods occur is a volcanic activity that melts surrounding ice and snow. The runoff flows down the mountainside and takes everything it encounters downstream.
Also, hurricanes and tropical storms can unleash huge quantities of rainfall in a short time-frame. A wall of water is formed and it will overwhelm everything in its way. Even manmade mistakes like dam failures or broken water mains can cause flash flooding.
How to survive a flash flood – Avoid unsafe areas
In the wilderness, a tired hiker can have impaired logical thinking. This usually leads to setting up camp just about anywhere. Since flash floods are not bound by geographical areas of the country, this can be a big mistake. More people die each year from flash flooding than any other danger you could encounter in the wilderness. Mother Nature’s moods such as tornadoes, lightning strikes, and even hurricanes cause fewer deaths than flash flooding.
When you decide to set up camp, there are some warning signs you should check if you want to avoid waking up in a river.
The first thing you need to do is to avoid gullies and bottlenecks of canyons or steep valleys. The fast pouring rain will be diverted into the funnel-like opening, and it creates a highly pressurized stream of water. You will not be able to escape this since it moves way to fast.
Second, check the soil and the ground from your camping site. Is it saturated dirt or clay-like? Clay will not offer proper drainage and the water will flow on it. If you also notice ripples of sand or dirt nearby, that’s a bad sign. It shows that nearby water sources are dropped downward by the slope of the landscape.
And lastly, make sure to check the shorelines of streams, river beds or creeks for signs of high-water marks. Never set your camp below the high marks you can find.
How to survive a flash flood – Beating the rise
If you want to survive a flash flood, there are some common sense rules you need to follow to survive a flash flood, once it occurs. They are as follows:
- If you are in your car when flash flood waters rise abruptly, get out and abandon your vehicle. It may be valuable to you, but it will become a death trap when it starts to float downstream.
- You may think you have a large, heavy truck but even a 2-ton vehicle can easily float away in 1 or 2 feet of water. Think about this and don’t assume your vehicle can fight Mother Nature’s fury.
- When you become trapped in your car as the water level rises to the doors, you may not be able to open the doors due to the exterior pressure. Your best chance of getting out of the car is to roll down your window or shatter it. I won’t stress again, how important it is to keep in your car a survival window-breaker tool.
- If you’re not in the vehicle, you should point your feet downstream and try as much as possible to move across structures or large pieces of debris you encounter.
- Your focus should be to get to higher ground and wait there for help to arrive. The longer you stay in the water, the greater the chances of hurting yourself. There are many unseen dangerous below the water such as potholes, debris flowing downstream, electric cables or sudden drops of terrain.
- Never leave the safety of high land or man-made. Some people have tried to swim and rescue others and they ended up washed away by the raging waters. You just don’t have the strength to keep yourself above the water, let alone trying to secure someone else.
The aftermath of a flash flood, a real danger
If you manage to survive a flash flood and the waters in the area nearby start receding, it doesn’t mean it is safe to venture out there. There are many precautions you should take during the aftermath of a flash flood. Here are my recommendations:
- Many people like to go out and inspect their neighborhood. It’s a curiosity that’s deeply embedded in human nature. I highly advise on the contrary since there are always hidden dangers. Just because you aren’t able to notice anything out of the ordinary, that doesn’t mean those dangers aren’t there.
- The pavement could be washed, roads could be gone and uneven terrain is perfect for you to sprain or even break your ankle or leg.
- Another problem people are constantly ignoring is downed power lines. These “electric snakes” are dangerous and will electrify the water around it. A deadly electric shock is a real possibility after a flash flood.
- Entering buildings should be done with caution because their structure and stability may have been affected by the flash flood. It could have rammed debris into supporting walls or pillars and weaken the building overall.
Related article: America’s Disaster Zones – Are You Living In Harm’s Way?
- Broken gas lines and leaking flammable liquids are also a problem and they might be present in your own home or any building you may enter. You should enter your home only after the proper authorities inspect it and declare it safe.
- Depending on where you live, local wildlife may become a problem for you and your family. They might have migrated with the high-level water and you can encounter venomous snakes, alligators and what not. You may have moody neighbors right after a flood rolls through.
- Never drink any water unless you boil it first, or better yet, stick to bottled water. The chemicals and other contaminants from the sewers may pollute drinkable water sources. You will get sick and it may take some while until you get medical help. In some cases, medical aid may not be available after a flash flood.
Although water is the life source for all the living creatures on this planet, it can also become a danger to us. It can certainly sustain life, but it will also take it away. A flash flood is a powerful natural disaster that hits without warnings. If you want to survive a flash flood, learning about how they form, how your region is affected by such disasters and what to do if it occurs in your area is key. The more you think about it today and prepare for it, the less you will worry about it tomorrow.