Monsoon season is here, and you know what that could mean: plenty of much-needed rain, sometimes in greater quantities than we can handle. A flash flood can travel miles beyond the storm that generated it, catching unwary hikers and motorists by surprise.
Monsoon storms in Pima County happen in the months of June, July, August and September. These intense summer rainstorms can contain heavy rain, lots of lightning and strong winds. They often cause dangerous flash floods.
Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the United States. A flash flood is a rapid rise of water in a street, wash crossing or low lying urban area. It only takes 6 inches of fast moving water to knock a person off their feet.
Flash flood damage and fatalities tend to occur in areas immediately adjacent to washes, arroyos, drainage channels and street crossings.
Although heavy downpours are not expected here in Northwest Tucson in the near future, the National Weather Service predicts light rain this week. Be sure to adjust your thinking cap for wet roads, replace your windshield wipers if needed, and heed these helpful tips offered by Pima County. Make sure your family has a plan (see below) in place to ensure everyone’s well-being while on the road and at home.
Flee the floods
• Never attempt to drive across a flooded roadway. Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are auto-related and about 75 percent of fatalities occur at night.
• Stop if you come upon a flooded roadway. The depth of the water is not always obvious. The roadbed may be washed out under the water and you could be stranded or trapped. Wait for the floodwater to go down or turn around and go another way.
Turn around, don’t drown
• It only takes two feet of flowing water to sweep most vehicles downstream. Low-profile vehicles can be moved even easier.
• Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection.
• When driving at highway speeds, excess water on the roadway can cause your vehicle to lose traction. Slow down to a safe speed to avoid hydroplaning and losing control of your vehicle.
• Monsoons often contain high winds and cause dust storms, presenting additional driving hazards.
Terms to describe flash flooding
Flash Flood Watch: This means flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground. A flash flood could occur without any warning. Listen to NOAA National Weather Service Weather Radio or commercial radio or television for additional information.
Flash Flood Warning: This means a flash flood is imminent or has been reported. Seek high ground immediately.
Urban and Small Stream Flood Advisory: This advisory alerts the public to flooding that is generally not serious or life-threatening to those living in the affected area. This advisory is issued when heavy rain will cause flooding of streets and low lying places in urban areas. Also used if small rural or urban streams are expected to become full or exceed bank full. Some damage to homes or roads could occur.
During flash flood season, the National Weather Service via NOAA Weather Radio 162.4 Mhz has 24-hour weather broadcasts. Warnings are also broadcast on local radio and television stations. Online information is available at http://wrh.noaa.gov/tucson.
Your monsoon safety family disaster plan
• Meet with your family to discuss the hazards that could occur where family members live, work, go to school and the routes to those locations.
• Determine where family members would meet outside your home in case of an emergency, and a place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.
• Choose an out-of-town family member or friend as your family check-in contact for everyone to call if the family gets separated, and an out-of-town neighborhood friend in case the first one does not answer.
• Discuss what you would do and how to do it if advised to evacuate.
• Post emergency telephone numbers by phones. Include cell phone numbers of family and contact points. Have family members carry these numbers with them.
• Keep emergency supplies in your home sufficient for three days to a week in case your area ever loses basic water, electricity and gas service.
• Assemble a disaster supplies kit with things you will need to have in order to evacuate.
• Also, consider the needs of elderly family members, anyone with disabilities, infants and family pets in times of emergencies.
For more details, visit www.ready.gov/america/getakit.
• Flash floods
• High winds
• Dust storms
• Downed power lines
• Streets flooded with water and debris
• Reduced visibility
• Mud and rockslides
• Fast-moving deep water in channels
• Dangerous roadway underpasses
• Wild fires