Flood Safety Awareness Week. Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick gives you a refresher course on this devastating natural disaster.

We know very well here in our region just how devastating and deadly flooding can be.  Floods are among the most frequent and costly disasters.  Conditions that cause floods include heavy or steady rain for several hours or days that saturates the ground.  Flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low lying area.

The photo above was taken last August when a massive flash flood washed this car away and got stuck under a bridge in the Merritts Creek area.  Thankfully no one was injured or killed.

Know the difference: 

Flood/Flash Flood Watch- Flooding or flash flooding is possible in your area.  If you live near a creek, stream or river you should monitor water levels and keep checking our latest forecasts.

Flood/Flash Flood Warning- Flooding or flash flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. 

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Is flooding really that big of a deal?

Flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather related event, an average of $5 billion a year. Flooding can occur in any of the 50 states or U.S. territories at anytime of the year.

Q: How do I know how severe a flood will be?

Once a river reaches flood stage, the flood severity categories used by the National Weather Service (NWS) include minor flooding, moderate flooding, and major flooding. Each category has a definition based on property damage and public threat.

  • Minor Flooding - minimal or no property damage, but possibly some public threat or inconvenience
  • Moderate Flooding - some inundation of structures and roads near streams. Some evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations are necessary.
  • Major Flooding - extensive inundation of structures and roads. Significant evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations.

The impacts of a floods vary locally.  For each National Weather Service river forecast location, flood stage and the stage associated with each of the NWS flood severity categories are established in cooperation with local public officials.  Increasing river levels above flood stage constitute minor, moderate, and major flooding.  Impacts vary from one river location to another because a certain river stage (height) in one location may have an entirely different impact than the same level above flood stage at another location.

Q: What's the difference between a flood and flash flood?

A flood occurs when prolonged rainfall over several days, intense rainfall over a short period of time, or an ice or debris jam causes a river or stream to overflow and flood the surrounding area. Melting snow can combine with rain in the winter and early spring; severe thunderstorms can bring heavy rain in the spring and summer; or tropical storms and hurricanes can bring intense rainfall to the coastal and inland states in the summer and fall.

A flash floods occur within six hours of a rain event, or after a dam or levee failure, or following a sudden release of water held by an ice or debris jam, and flash floods can catch people unprepared. You will not always have a warning that these deadly, sudden floods are coming. So, if you live in areas prone to flash floods, plan now to protect your family and property. The use of the word “flash” here is synonymous with “urgent.” (NWS).

If you ever come upon a flooded roadway, remember this phrase: Turn Around, Don't Drown! 

If you have a weather related question for a future blog or segment, e-mail me: josh.fitzpatrick@wsaz.com  follow me on twitter: twitter.com/weatherjoshfitz and join my facebook fan page.

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