‘Turn around, don’t drown’: How to stay ahead of rising floodwaters

Severe Weather
flooded road

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A flood can occur during any time of the year.

Yes, even during the winter months — as long as all the correct atmospheric conditions are present.

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on average, 95 Americans are killed because of flooding each year.

weather fatalities chart, details in text
Courtesy: NOAA and NWS

In fact, flooding is the second leading cause of weather-related deaths — only trailing to heat-related deaths.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service (NWS) track these threats from the start. They will often issue a “Flood Watch” a day or two before the storm even hits.

This allows media outlets — like WPRI 12 — to disseminate life-saving information regarding an incoming weather system.

A ‘”Flood Warning” will only be issued if a threat is imminent or occurring.

Did you know there are multiple types of flooding?

  • Flash Flooding
  • River Flooding
  • Storm Surge and Coastal Inundation
  • Burn Scars and Debris Flows
  • Ice and Debris Jams
  • Snowmelt
  • Dry Wash
  • Dam Breaks & Levee Failure

Across Southern New England, the common include flash flooding, river flooding, storm surge and coastal inundation and snowmelt.

Those living in flood-prone areas should have an evacuation plan in place and know of an alternate route of escape.

Additionally, those living near bodies of water should closely monitor rising water levels.

When a warning is issued, you should head for higher ground — especially if located in a flood-prone area.

Do you know if you are living in a flood zone?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a helpful tool to determine whether your neighborhood is considered a flood-prone area.

As temperatures drop below freezing, flooding can be exacerbated. Why?

It’s because of the frozen ground. Water can’t penetrate through the nearly solid surface which allows water to run off — rather than it being absorbed into the ground.

Additionally, debris from the fall months can still easily clog storm drains, allowing for ponding and flooding on stretches of roads. If you live near a storm drain, make sure it’s cleared before the weather gets dicey.

When driving, do not cross a flooded roadway in your vehicle.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most flood-related deaths occur when a vehicle is driven into what is considered “hazardous flood water.”

If you come across a flooded roadway- remember this: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.

“A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult,” NOAA reports. “It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away most cars and just 2 feet of rushing water can carry away SUVs and trucks. It is never safe to drive or walk into floodwaters.”

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