Flash Floods: Avoid Flash Floods by Following These Guidelines

Published: 21st March 2011
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When setting up your camp site, the most important aspect to consider is location. Heavily wooded areas can lead to uninvited woodland guests, while land near ponds can open the door to mosquito infestation. But the most important feature of a campsite, which if neglected can cause the biggest safety risk, is the area's likelihood to experience flash floods.

Flash floods can be very dangerous, and even deadly, which is why it is important to pick a camp spot that will not fall prey to surging waters. When doing this, the first thing to consider is drainage. Choose an area of land that will drain easily, even in the case of a heavy downpour of rain. Land that is made up of soil that is hard-packed rather than porous can be risky for the very reason of poor drainage. Areas to avoid are flat land with depressions, where rainwater can form puddles underneath your tent.

But it isn't just moist land that can play host to flash floods; dry land is equally prone. Dry washes, sandbars, and sandy steam beds are highly prone to flooding. A good rule is to simply avoid any area that has evidence of previous water runoff. Though it may be dry now, a rainstorm occurring miles away can cause a flash flood, and these channels can bring it to you. Also, land that has suffered from forest fires can be a target location for this particular threat. Watch out for areas that are denuded of vegetation by fire or by a man-made clearing operation because it can be a prime location for collected rain water to come rushing through.

Some key aspects of flash floods to remember are that they feed off of rainfall, drainage, and time. Light to moderate rainfall is not an issue, but when it gets to be heavy, then flash floods become a problem, so make sure to check the forecast before heading camping. In colder regions, where rain may not be an issue, sudden snowmelt is. Drainage poses a problem in two ways. We already know about poor drainage leading to rain collection, but drainage systems can pose a different problem. Systems and lowlands offer areas for water to collect and funnel downstream, possibly to your campsite. So just to be safe, don't plant yourself at the bottom of a slope. Time is a very important thing to flash floods, because a short period of heavy downpour isn't going to be much of a flood, but rains that go on for more than an hour are, and that point should be your cue to abandon your campsite.

The most feared part of camping tends to be wild animals and disgusting toilets, but flash floods trump them both. More people die every year from flash floods than from bear attacks, so it is important to know how to recognize this possible danger. Just know where to look, what to watch out for, and when to get out.

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