U.S. Forest Service officials issued a flash flood safety bulletin for visitors to the Nantahala, Pisgah, and Uwharrie National Forests in North Carolina today. The National Weather Service describes a flash flood as a rapid rise of water in a low-lying area, usually caused by an intense storm that produces heavy rainfall in a short amount of time. Rising flood waters can carry a velocity strong enough to roll boulders and vehicles, tear out trees, destroy bridges and undermine roads. A low-lying area can become extremely dangerous in a matter of minutes.
As with all remote and rural locations in the U.S., warnings from city sirens don’t exist out in nature. Remember to check the National Weather Service forecast before you leave home, and be alert for changing weather conditions while visiting the forest. Devices like a weather radio, a terrestrial radio and a smart-phone application can help visitors stay tuned-in during their outdoor activities.
Flood awareness can be especially critical for campers. A flash flood can happen at a moment's notice, any time of the day and any time of the year. It is nearly impossible to see the water depths and the force of the current when a flash flood happens at night.
The bulletin offers these safety tips for avoiding flash floods:
* Safety is your own responsibility whenever you head outdoors.
* Families should discuss how they would alert each other and get to a safe zone if rushing or rising water, or any other emergency, interrupts their trip.
* When visiting a forest, be alert for heavy rains and sudden changes in weather.
* Recreating or camping near a stream or river can be a risk if there are thunderstorms in the area.
* Flash floods can occur with little or no warning.
* When a NOAA flash flood warning is issued for your area, or the moment you realize that water is rising around you, act quickly.
* In remote areas of the forest, use of cell phones and digital data services may be limited.