Forest Service officials alert neighbors about flash flood danger

  • Tuesday, May 7, 2013

National forest officials have issued a flash flood bulletin for neighboring communities and people who camp outdoors. A flash flood is a serious weather event for forest visitors because rising flood water is extremely dangerous — a sudden surge can claim victims in less than one minute.

Any intense, heavy rain that falls in a short amount of time can create flash flood conditions in a low-lying area, according to the National Weather Service, and it can happen at a moment’s notice any time of the year.

“Many of our neighbors like to camp overnight in the forest,” explained Rick Lint, forest supervisor for the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests. “Sometimes visitors camp in low-lying areas because they spent the day along a river. But a sudden rush of water toward their camp site would put them in immediate danger.”

During a flash flood, rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. The velocity of a flood surge can easily roll boulders and vehicles, tear out trees, destroy bridges and undermine roads. A low-lying area can become a death trap in a matter of minutes.

“There is very little time to react,” said Lint. “Forest visitors need to be more conscious about sudden storms. Families should discuss how they would alert each other and climb to safety if rushing water arrives.”

Weather experts say the best defense is to be weather-ready before a storm hits.

Forest officials are asking neighbors to check the National Weather Service forecast before they leave home, and to be alert for changing weather conditions while visiting the forest. Devices like a weather radio, a terrestrial radio, a smart-phone app or a cell phone mobile alert can help visitors stay tuned-in before and during their outdoor activities.

Statistics show that most flash floods in the U.S. occur after dark, when campers are asleep.

According to the Forest Service, national forests are popular places to sleep under the stars.

“People from nearby communities come camping all year,” said Lint. “They need to be weather-ready every time they visit the forest. Outdoor safety isn’t something to brush off or take lightly.”

“When a flash flood strikes at night, it’s nearly impossible to know how deep and fast the water is,” Lint explained. “It’s noisy. It’s dark. And it’s disorienting to wake up suddenly during a storm. You have to act quickly.”

The National Weather Service is our nation’s exclusive and trusted source for weather forecasts and warnings. Their meteorologists use the most advanced flood warning and forecast system in the world to protect lives and property.

Whenever severe weather is forecasted, forest visitors need to go home early. While outdoors, always be alert for sudden storms and the sound of rushing water.

As with all remote and rural locations in the United States, city sirens don’t exist out in nature. Forest officials always remind visitors, “Your safety is your own responsibility every time you leave home and head outdoors, no matter where you go.”

For more information on the dangers of flash flooding, as well as downloadable images and infographics, please visit http://prst.co/5MX.

For more information on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/scnfs.

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