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As the winter ice and snow begin to melt, the sound of birds singing returns, and the animals begin to poke their heads out of their burrows. It is clear that spring is in the air. While this is an excellent time to enjoy nature,  whether in the privacy of your backyard or if you take to the open road to enjoy the great outdoors, there is one thing you should take into consideration: flooding caused by the springtime thaw. 

RECIPE FOR DISASTER

Warmer temperatures cause the surface of the snow and ice to melt. Each cubic foot of highly compacted snow contains multiple gallons of water that, by way of gravity, will follow the path of least resistance downhill.

Because much of the ground below the surface is still frozen, the water produced from the melted snow is unable to seep into the ground. As a result, instead of being absorbed by the earth below it, a great volume of water  runs down until it reaches streams, creeks, rivers and lakes.

When swelling water spills over onto low-lying ground, it causes severe flooding, and it puts humans at the greatest risk of being affected by the springtime thaw. Add the spring weather, which tends to be quite wet and stormy, and you can have a recipe for disaster if you are not careful. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes that flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other weather-related event. According to NOAA, flooding causes more than $8 billion in property damage and kills more than 90 people annually. For instance, in 2009, the village of Eagle, Alaska, was virtually destroyed by a flood of the Yukon River caused by an unusually warm springtime thaw.

“When it comes to flooding, higher ground is always good.”

Do not be discouraged! All this data should not keep you from going outside or living in areas prone to flooding. You already have the best weapon to use against the possible dangers associated with the thaw: your mind.

The best thing you can do to prepare and avoid these hazards is just use a little common sense.

If you live in a home prone to floods, you should have an evacuation plan in place and an emergency bag packed at all times. (Photo: Mori Hodel/EyeEm,GettyImages)

 

DANGERS OF MOVING WATER

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Never walk in moving water if you are not certain of the depth of the water or the strength of the current. It takes just 6 inches of water to knock a grown man off his feet and sweep him away. If you absolutely must walk through water, use a stick to check the depth of the water in front of you.

“Be aware of other hazards created by flash flooding: sinkholes, mudslides and downed power lines.”

TIPS TO STAY ALIVE

      • Avoid low-lying roads when traveling through potential flood plains.
      • Do not attempt to cross through flooded portions of the road; it is not possible to know how deep the water is.
      • Never attempt to ford a completely flooded road with a vehicle or on foot. Water is one of the most powerful forces on Earth. It takes only 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a car, and 2 feet can carry away most larger vehicles.
      • Be aware of other hazards created by flash flooding: sinkholes, mud slides and downed power lines.
      • Keep sandbags and other water barriers on hand if you live in a low-lying area prone to flooding.
      • Prior to the spring thaw, check to ensure your drainage system is open and free of clogs.
      • Create a plan to put into action in the event of a flood and when/how to evacuate safely. Make sure you have a bug-out bag ready to go with everything you need in the event you have to pick up and leave quickly. Don’t forget your important documents and medications.
      • If you live in a floodplain, it is a smart idea to keep on hand a personal flotation device and even a small boat or raft to assist during catastrophic events.
      • In the event of a flash flood, if you are in your car, open the windows and take off your seat belt immediately. Be prepared to exit your vehicle as soon as it is safe or when emergency personnel arrive to assist you.
      • Never walk in moving water. Just 6 inches of water can sweep you off your feet.
      • If you live in an area where flooding is likely, be sure to pay attention to flood warnings in your area coming from TV, radio and the Internet. You should know that a “flood watch” means that flooding is possible and that a “flood warning” means flooding is imminent.
      • When it comes to flooding, higher ground is always good.
      • If flooding is imminent, turn off the main power breaker in your home and unplug all appliances.

Do not drive through or across flooded roads, because your vehicle can easily be swept away by moving floodwaters. (Photo: catnap72, GettyImages)

It is always smart to keep a small boat or raft on hand if you live in an area prone to flooding. (Photo: Skip Brown, GettyImages)

As you can see, a little information can go a long way toward being prepared. So, now that you are armed with many good tips to keep you safe during the springtime thaw, get out there and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer—knowing you have the knowledge to keep yourself and your family safe from harm.

For more information, visit FloodSafety.NOAA.gov

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.