SWAW: Turn around, don't drown!

Flooding isn't nearly as exciting to watch on video, but flooding kills more people in the US than any other type of severe weather.

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Turn around, don't drown!
Elizabeth Gardner
I get invited to a lot of schools each year. I spend a good bit of time talking about severe weather and ways to stay safe. I usually start by asking students what they think is the most dangerous kind of severe weather. The answer I normally get is tornadoes. That’s understandable — tornadoes get a lot of press. Flooding, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as exciting to watch on video, but flooding kills more people in the US than any other type of severe weather.

Some of you may know that I enjoy kayaking. I am a whitewater kayaker, and that entails having a good understanding of the power of moving water. I took a swiftwater rescue class several years ago, and it really drove that point home. We had to practice walking across a fast moving river that was knee deep. It surprised most of us in the class how difficult it was, even in a shallow spot. It gave me an even greater respect for the power and danger of moving water. It's something that most people underestimate.

Looking at flooding statistics, it’s evident that people don’t take the threat seriously enough. We’re talking about severe weather — especially thunderstorms — this week, but hurricanes also cause flooding. The number one killer during hurricanes is flooding. Most people die during flooding by driving their car across a flooded road. It’s often difficult to tell how deep the water is. Only a foot of water can wash away your vehicle. Once your vehicle has been washed downstream rescue is often difficult or impossible.

There are several relatively simple things you can do to stay safe during flooding:

  • Number one: Turn Around, Don’t Drown! That’s a National Weather Service slogan. You may be in a hurry to get somewhere but just turn around and go back the way you came. It could save your live and your family’s.
  • Speaking of family, don’t let children play in flood waters. It’s easy for them to fall in and be swept away.
  • Know your home’s flood danger. If you are in a flood plain be sure to monitor rising water closely. You’ll also want separate flood insurance. It’s not covered in regular homeowner’s insurance policies.

Take flooding seriously and stay safe out there!


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