We’ve all received weather alerts before, whether via text message, radio broadcast, or TV spot. While most of these alerts present straightforward information, sometimes certain types of alerts can seem redundant. This is particularly obvious when you realize we receive different alerts for flash floods and floods in general. Why is this distinction necessary?
Flash floods are a different category of flood all their own. Either type can cause significant damage, but a flash flood forms and moves much faster than a typical flood. This makes flash floods especially dangerous. Understanding the difference between flash floods vs floods will give you an idea of how much danger you’re in the next time you get a flood alert.
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Characteristics of Common Flooding
The National Weather Service’s definition of a flood is short, sweet, and to the point: “ an overflow of water onto normally dry land.” While this definition is technically broad enough to encompass both flash floods and slower flooding, the term “flood” refers to a generally slow process. Water levels creep up over hours or even days as rain overflows nearby bodies of water or combines with other factors to create a perfect storm. The major 2019 flood in the midwestern United States illustrates a rather complex set of conditions for flooding. Increased rainfall from the previous year caused the ground to freeze solid when winter came, and as the snow began to melt later on, the water had nowhere to drain and spread out, causing widespread flooding.
Characteristics of Flash Floods
Unlike floods that require a gradual buildup of the right conditions, flash floods can occur seemingly out of the blue. The National Weather Service defines a flash flood as a sudden influx of water into a dry area, often within a time period of 6 hours or less. Culprits can range from heavy rain to a collapsing dam nearby.
As Popular Mechanics succinctly puts it, the difference between a flash flood and a typical flood is “the difference between simmering and rapid destruction.” Floods bring a gradual increase in water level and can cause widespread damage over a long period of time. On the other hand, flash floods occur in mere hours or minutes and rip through river beds or streets, lasting much less time but causing as much or even more destruction.
Pro Tip: A flash flood warning signifies a higher level of danger than a more common flood warning. Get to high ground fast!
Staying Safe During Hurricane Season
As 2020’s hurricane season continues, it never hurts to brush up on your preparations for severe weather. That definitely includes understanding the differences between a flood and a much more immediately dangerous flash flood. But at the end of the day, remember that floodwaters of any kind are never safe. Stay out of the water and get to high ground immediately!
Connect with us for more information on safely weathering this hurricane season.