WRAL WeatherCenter Blog


Posted May 26, 2010 6:08 a.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2010 10:41 a.m. EDT

A lot of us adults grew up hearing that the biggest threats from hurricanes were wind damage and storm surge.  However, from 1970 until now, the majority of people who die during hurricanes die from inland flooding. 

People living along the coast have learned to heed evacuation warnings.  Most people will leave an area where coastal flooding is imminent, and they travel inland thinking they are safe.  People who live inland also think they are safe.   However more than half of hurricane related deaths occur during inland flooding.   It can happen hundreds of miles inland from the coast. 

The mountains of North Carolina sustained devastating flooding during the fall of 2004 as three tropical systems moved through.  Many of us remember the flooding from hurricane Floyd in 1999.  Of the 56 people who died 50 of them died during inland flooding, mostly by driving their cars into floodwater.   That's the leading cause of inland flooding deaths. 

The National Weather Service coined a phrase a few years ago: Turn Around, Don't Drown.  It sounds simple but two feet of water can wash a vehicle off a road.  It's never safe to try to drive across a flooded road even if the water looks shallow.  Crossing on foot is even more dangerous: A mere six inches of running water is enough to knock you off your feet!

Children are at high risk during flooding.   Inland flooding accounts for 78% of tropical cyclone deaths involving children.   Don't let your children play in flood waters.  They can easily be swept away.  Flood waters are often quite polluted as well.   Stay safe and away from flooding this hurricane season.