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How do you stay safe during flash floods?

Many places across the U.S. are currently experiencing flash floods; here's how you can prepare yourself and stay safe if one comes to you.

MOLINE, Ill. — Over the past few weeks, the U.S. has experienced numerous flash floods across the country. So, what is flash flooding and how do you stay safe if one was coming your way?

Flash flooding occurs when a lot of water collects and flows in one place within a 3 to 6-hour period. They usually occur due to heavy rainfall, but flash flooding can occur after other events, such as a dam or levee break and mudslides. Location, topography, soil types, vegetation, and other factors can influence how quick flash flooding can occur.

Urban areas are more likely to experience flash flooding than suburbs or rural areas. This is because the impervious surfaces of urban areas, like concrete and asphalt, don't allow water to soak into the ground and it instead runs off to low spots quickly.

A flash flood watch is issued when conditions look favorable for flash flooding, which can be issued ahead of a water system making its way through the area. This is when you start thinking and putting an action plan together in case you're affected by the flooding. Watches are typically issued across several counties at once.

A flash flood warning is issued when flooding is happening or is about to happen. This is when you act quickly and move to higher ground. When this is issued, it's usually for a smaller, more specific area.

A flash flood emergency is issued in rare events. This is when extremely heavy rain leads to a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage is anticipated or actively happening. When this is issued, officials report life threatening water rises that result in water rescues and evacuations, as well as severe damage to property.

Safety Tips:

  • During periods of heavy rain, stay away from flood-prone areas such as stream beds, drainage ditches, and culverts
  • Move to higher ground if flooding threatens the area
  • If you live or work in flood-prone areas, stay alert and have a plan during periods of rain
  • Be cautious at night, when it's harder to see and recognize flood dangers
  • Do not drive toward flooded areas
  • Stay out of flood waters; there are animals, microorganisms, debris, chemicals, sewage, and power lines than can cause injury, sickness, and death.

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