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What Should You Do during Flash Flooding?

June 15, 2010, 6:19:45 AM EDT

Recent flash flooding in Arkansas and Oklahoma City has claimed lives and put homes under water, prompting meteorologists to analyze the weather warning system for remote areas and emergency workers to look at safety.

Flash flooding last Friday morning killed at least 20 at the Albert Pike Campground in Arkansas, and the timing of the event, the middle of the night, made it hard for campers to heed warnings.

"Most serious flash flooding occurs in the middle of the night," said Mike Smith, CEO of's Weather Data office in Wichita, Kan.

While the National Weather Service (NWS) had a timely warning released, sleeping campers located in such a remote location were unaware of the threat.

"When it's raining heavily that late at night, people really hunker down in their tents and aren't alert to their outside surroundings," said Smith. "This tragedy illustrates why we need a better weather warning system for remote areas."

Camping locations in the southwestern United States are known for their siren system during flash flooding. A loud siren is sounded when warnings are issued, and the siren can be heard through multiple camping locations.

"A siren warning system would be a great solution to preventing something like the Arkansas disaster from happening again," said Smith.

Even with a siren system in place, Smith urges people to evacuate sooner if rising water is in the forecast.

"People should get out as soon as possible," said Smith. "Don't wait around and hope for the water to clear in order to cut an escape path, leave right away."

Read below for more flooding safety tips.

Before a Flood:

- Know your area's flood risk and if unsure contact your local Red Cross chapter. - Find out if your property is above or below flood level. - Be aware of your community's warning system. - Know the flood terms: Flood Watch - a flood is possible in your area. Flood Warning - flooding is already occurring or will occur soon in your area. - Have an evacuation plan and route established beforehand. - Have disaster supplies on hand: flashlights and extra batteries, a battery-operated radio, a first aid kit, emergency food and water, essential medicines, sturdy shoes, cash and credit cards. - Listen to local TV/radio stations for updates. - Be prepared for evacuation: know the safest routes, as well as alternative routes, and keep automobiles fueled.


During a Flood:

Indoors: - Monitor the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Weather Radio or your local radio/TV stations for updates. - If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. - Tie down or move outside possessions indoors. - If there is time, move essential items to upper floors and disconnect electrical appliances that can't be moved. - If told to shut off water, gas or electrical services before leaving, do so. - Lock all doors and windows.

Outdoors: - Climb to high ground and stay there. - Avoid walking through floodwaters- even 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet.

While Traveling or in a Car: - Leave early, make sure car has enough fuel and follow recommended routes. - If you come across a flooded area, avoid it and find another way. - Stay updated on the latest flood information. - Watch out for areas that may suddenly rise and flood like highway dips, bridges and low areas. - If your car stalls, immediately abandon it and climb to higher ground.

After the Flood: - Listen to radio/tv for latest instructions from local officials. - Wait to return home until area has been declared safe. - Before entering your home, check for structural damage. - Do not use open flame as sources of light, use a flashlight. - Do not turn on electrical appliances until they have been checked by an electrician. - Throw out any medicine or food that has come in contact with water. - If the public water system has been declared "unsafe" by health officials, water for drinking and/or cooking should be boiled vigorously for 10 minutes before use. - Watch out for electrical shorts and live wires.

All information provided by Quake Kare Inc., the New York State Emergency Management Office, and Niles, Ohio, Office of Emergency Management.

Related to the Story: Oklahoma City: Ground Zero for Extreme Weather in 2010

Story by Kristen Rodman and Carly Porter, Staff Writers.

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