WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Let's Talk Flooding

Posted March 5, 2009 8:32 a.m. EST

I have the opportunity to talk to hundreds of school children every year. At the beginning of my talk about severe weather, I always ask, "which kind of severe weather do you think is the most deadly?"  Normally, the first couple of answers are tornadoes and hurricanes, but while they get the most headlines, flooding is the number one severe weather related killer in the country!  I guess flooding just isn’t as dramatic as a tornado!

We have our fair share of flooding here in North Carolina. One of the biggest weather related tragedies in our state was Hurricane Floyd, which killed more than 50 people.  Most of them died because they drove their car through a flooded road, and unfortunately, this is all too common — and all too preventable.

Moving water is incredibly powerful, and because most folks don’t come in contact with it on a regular basis, they don’t give it enough respect. As a whitewater kayaker, I know well the power of water. I have taken swift water rescue training, and that will really open your eyes to the power and danger of water.  Even so, I understand the power we feel when we’re in our vehicles.  We feel invincible, especially in big SUVs and trucks; however, it takes less than two feet of water to wash a vehicle off the road, no matter its size.

The National Weather Service adopted a slogan a few years ago: “Turn Around, Don’t Drown".  It may seem simple and a little bit hokey, but it’s one thing I stress to students I talk to. You may be in a hurry to get home or to an appointment and you think to yourself, "oh…it’s just a little bit of water."  Chances are, if you go back the way you came you’ll eventually make it to where you’re going. If not, it could be your last trip!