The deadly and destructive power of water

Be safe and smart about floods

House flood.(Photo: USGS.)

Did you know fast moving water just above your ankles can knock you off your feet? 

Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. Many of these deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream and are preventable. But too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded. You won't know the depth of the water nor will you know the condition of the road under the water. 

Whether you are driving or walking, if you come to a flooded road, Turn Around Don't Drown!

Most flash floods are caused by slow moving thunderstorms, thunderstorms that move repeatedly over the same area or heavy rains from tropical storms and hurricanes. These floods can develop within minutes or hours depending on the intensity and duration of the rain, the topography, soil conditions and ground cover.

Streen flood.(Photo: NOAA.)

Flash floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels. Rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. Flash flood-producing rains also can trigger catastrophic mud slides.

Occasionally, floating debris or ice can accumulate at a natural or man-made obstruction and restrict the flow of water. Water held back by the ice jam or debris dam can cause flooding upstream. Subsequent flash flooding can occur downstream if the obstruction should suddenly release.

How to be flood safe

National Flood Safety Week poster.

What kinds of flooding alerts does NOAA issue?

What is NOAA doing about floods and flash floods?

NOAA scientists are figuring out ways to blend data from radar, satellite, lightning, and rain gauges to improve flash flood monitoring and prediction. This will help overcome significant challenges in estimating precipitation type and amount. 

NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research is working hard to improve warnings and forecasts of floods and flash floods. By investigating the meteorological causes of flash flooding and working on flash flood and river flood warning decision making tools, we hope to see more lives saved and less property destroyed.

March 16-22 (2014) is National Flood Safety Awareness Week

For more information about any floods in your area, visit

Posted March 19, 2014 NOAA logo.