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Here’s how you can avoid getting trapped in a flash flood

(AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Jeffrey Lowman)

Flash floods are a serious hazard in Arizona, particularly during our state’s monsoon season which started in mid-June and lasts until Sept. 15.

A flash flood can happen anywhere in the country due to heavy rainfall from thunderstorms or breaks in dams and levees, according to the National Weather Service. But we do seem to hear about them frequently in Arizona, partly because we live in an arid desert.

When a tremendous amount of rain falls in a desert in a very short time, as it does during monsoon storms, our dry compact soil cannot absorb water quickly enough to capture much of the rain. Many subdivisions and populated areas do not have storm sewers or good drainage systems.

Thunderstorms that are slow-moving or that repeatedly move over the same area are particularly a threat. And when there are no trees or plants to slow down the water, those dry washes, gullies, tranquil creeks and dry stream beds can turn into 10-foot-deep roaring rivers, according to the National Severe Storm Laboratory.

Although many flash floods occur in back country areas where hikers or backpackers could be in danger, sometimes these floods involve highway underpasses, underground parking garages, or even homes built near dry washes in more populated areas.

It’s hard to know in advance what situations or areas can be dangerous, but here are a few suggestions that might be helpful:

• Don’t ignore those flash flood warnings that pop up on cellphones or TV. If you are outdoors – perhaps on a hike – get to higher ground immediately. If you haven’t left your home yet, it’s probably best to stay put.

• Don’t drive a car through large puddles of standing water or into low-lying areas under freeways.

• Don’t drive around barricades or try to drive through flood waters.

• Avoid bridges over creeks and rivers.

• If trapped in a building, go to the highest level.

• Don’t try to walk through or swim in creeks or washes.

• Evacuate your home or a building if told to do so. If you have to leave, try to gather valuable documents, supplies, medications, batteries and chargers for cellphones.

• Beware of electrocution inside buildings that have standing water.

• If your power goes out, use a generator or gas-powered machine only in a dry area outdoors and away from windows.

Rosie on the House

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