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April 8, 2009
Ready or not, flood season is here. Heavy rain and snow showers are closing in on the Midwest and some regions, like the Red River Valley in western Minnesota, are already underwater. It's time to review these easy tips so you know what to do once the waters start to rise. • A flashflood can arrive suddenly and unannounced as a result of a thunderstorm that is happening (or happened hours ago) many miles away, upstream or upslope, where the rain collects into natural channels and gathers strength as it roars downhill toward your location. You might be standing under blue sky when the flood arrives like an out-of-control freight train. • Inland flooding along a coastal region can arrive as a secondary disaster that was caused by a hurricane or a tsunami that drives sea water miles inland. • Relatively slow flooding can develop along waterways when snow melts or heavy rain occurs upstream. This type of flood is subject to sudden outbursts when ice jams or debris that has collected at choke points suddenly gives way, releasing a torrent. • Structural failure, such as a dam break, can suddenly release a flood that can wipe out the area downstream.
Never drive across a flooded roadway. It is impossible to know if the road has been washed out and your vehicle will plunge into a flooded crater and be washed downstream.
Never attempt to cross a flood on foot. Although the current might look mild, the force of water is deceptive and rushing water that is only knee deep can easily sweep you off your feet.
Carry a dedicated weather radio with you and heed the warnings issued on the radio. It's better to cancel a hunt or fishing trip than to be caught in a flood disaster.
Keep your ears open. If you hear a distant rumbling that sounds like it's growing louder, consider that it might be a flashflood coming. Gather your people and head uphill immediately. Keep your eyes open and scan the horizon. Distant cumulonimbus clouds (massive anvil-shaped thunderheads) deliver violent amounts of rain that might wash into your area.
Avoid locations downstream of a dam. I know, some of the best fishing is in the waters below a dam. If you're going to be in those places, at least be aware of the potential and have an escape plan in mind.
Do not camp right alongside a waterway. Place your camp on high ground where it will be safe if the river overflows its banks.
Plan your escape route. Study the lay of the land and always have a contingency plan in mind that will lead you to safe ground. Share this plan with everyone in your group, so that if a flood occurs when you are separated, everyone will know what to do and where to go.
If you are swept away in a flood, try to position yourself with your feet pointed downstream so you can fend off dangerous objects. Attempt to work your way toward the bank, grab onto bushes or trees and pull yourself out. If you can take up a position in a tree and hang on, realize that you might have to abandon that location if the tree is uprooted and washed away.
Do not try to save property that is being devoured by a flood. Get yourself and others to safety and leave everything behind. Property can be replaced -- you can't. Check out Rich's website at
Statistically, floods are the most devastating natural disasters. Here's how to survive them.
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