Beware of Flash Floods
Reported September 2009
BOULDER, Colo. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Flooding is one of the deadliest types of natural disasters humans face. Why? Most people underestimate the power of nature. Many drivers are willing to risk their lives on flooded roads, but now the government is trying to put a stop to that by getting the message across to "Turn around. Don't drown."
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They can strike in just minutes, sweeping away cars in an instant. Flash floods are deadly, but remembering just a few words can save your life.
"Turn around. Don't drown."
It's the slogan the government is trying to get across in areas vulnerable to flash floods. Children learn it in school. Signs are posted in hot spots. But despite an extensive National Weather Service ad campaign, many drivers are still taking chances.
“I just kind of plow through it, just keep driving," driver Rachel Skolon told Ivanhoe. "It's kind of a habit I have learned.”
Each foot of water reduces a vehicle's weight by 1,500 pounds. Just two feet can wash a car completely off the road. More than 100 people die every year in floods -- many while attempting to drive through the high waters.
“A lot of people get into accidents," Sheldon Drobot, a meteorologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., told Ivanhoe. "This is especially the case with flooded roads, when you simply don’t know it’s there, and the next thing you know, you are in the middle of the road, it’s flooded, and the car is floating away. There is nothing much you can do at that point.”
Meteorologists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research say drivers don’t take their warnings seriously.
“What we are trying to do is to look at some of the characteristics of why people are driving into floods," Drobot said.
What they want drivers to know? Flash floods are powerful enough to destroy anything in their path. They can roll boulders, tear down trees and destroy buildings and bridges. Floodwaters can reach up to 20 feet.
The next time one strikes, remember, "Turn around. Don’t drown."
According to the National Weather Service, Central Texas is the state most often hit by flash floods in the United States. The state is also home to the most flood-related deaths every year -- averaging twice as many as the next nearest state, California.
The American Meteorological Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Boulder, CO 80307
American Meteorological Society
Boston, MA 02108-3693
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