When I was young, I would constantly watch Winnie the Pooh. On one particular show, the 100 Acre Woods received a downpour of rain. What followed was probably the worst flash flood the good folks of the 100 Acre Wood had ever experienced. The lyrics that accompany the images of the flood still haunt me to this day:
“The rain rain rain came down down down
in rushing riving riv’lets,
‘Till the river crept out of its bed
and crept right into Piglet’s!”
Poor Piglet. The flood came in so fast he was carried out of his home stranded on a floating chair!
Can you imagine being caught in a flood like that? I always laughed as Piglet was washed down stream (because I’m heartless like that), but in reality, flash floods happen anytime, anywhere. For Pooh and Piglet, they were caught unawares, still asleep, as the water came rushing into their home.
For me? Well, I was at home, too, just about to leave for the football game.
Although I’m not a huge football fan (rugby all the way!), I was excited we were playing a good, competitive team. The whole city was abuzz with excitement, so I thought I’d join them in their revelry. My will to venture out was dampened, however, when I opened the front door to head out to the game on my bicycle. Oh bother. I stood there, slack-jawed, astounded at how hard the rain was falling. After a brief pause I shut the door. There was no way I was biking in that weather. No matter…the football game was delayed two hours because of the downpour.
Unfortunately, I lived in a first-floor apartment and, like poor piglet’s, the riv’lets rose fast around us. They seeped in through the walls and lower windows, and formed a small lake outside the front door. It was a mess. Lucky for us, our apartment sat on top of a hill, so it could have been a lot worse.
For everyone living downhill, it was a lot worse. The streets turned into rivers and lakes, and basements and cars were flooded. There were a bunch of college students who made the best of things, pulling each other behind high-lifted Jeeps on wakeboards through flooded parking lots (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!).
In the couple of years since my football-day flood, I have come to realize that such downpours and the torrents that follow are a more than once in a lifetime experience for millions. For example, did you know that in one 15-year instance, Texans weathered some 4,722 flash floods? That’s pretty close to one flash flood every day. Luckily Texas is kind of a big state, so most of these deluges were scattered far and wide. I emphasize most; several Texas communities are “flood-prone.” If they experience what I did more than once, I think I would pack-up and move before the next flood came.
In many regions of the world, such destruction is almost commonplace. Just last week, three days of heavy rain caused massive flooding in the Kashmir Valley of Pakistan and India. This was just six months after a previous huge flood which killed over 600 people. Once again, thousands are homeless as homes were washed away. Landslides took out roads, and highways were blocked for miles. Fortunately, officials say the situation is under control. For now.
How might it have been different for Pooh and Piglet if they had known they were at risk? Maybe Piglet wouldn’t have been caught sleeping. Maybe Pooh would have been able to save more of his precious honey pots. How would my roommates and I have defended ourselves from the rising waters had we an understanding of what was happening around us. How do folks from Odessa, Texas to Odisha, India ride-out storm after storm, year after year.
Although flash floods can happen without much warning, knowing the areas and causes can help you prepare yourselves (and your home).
Know the Signs
Flash floods tend to occur in dry, low-lying areas. This includes areas near rivers, dry lake beds, and basins. But even if you live in a higher area, you can still be affected. Roads, parking lots, curbs and gutters, they all collect and channel water, sometimes into first-floor hilltop apartments (remember, I was living on a hill and still got flooded).
The condition of the surrounding soil can be an indicator if your areas will flood or not. If you live in a very dry area that doesn’t receive much rainfall, the ground becomes as hard and impenetrable as concrete. When it does rain hard, the ground has trouble soaking it up, leaving it to gather and flow to the areas of least resistance – which for some reason almost always means your house. On the other end of the spectrum, if your soil has been receiving a lot of moisture, it can be already saturated, leaving no room for any more water to soak in. Once the soil is saturated, watch out for flooding!
So how can you prepare for a flash flood? Well, as the good men of G.I. Joe say, “Knowing is half the battle.” Be aware of the risks involved in the area you live in. Do you live in a dry climate? Are you near a river, or at the bottom of a hill? If you know your risks, you will be better able to prepare when the rains come down and the floods come up.
But enough about me! How have you prepared for flash flooding? Do you have any tips or tricks to share with your fellow preppers? Let us know in the comments!