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Severe Weather Awareness Week: Turn Around, Don't Drown

One of the most underestimated forms of severe weather is also the deadliest on average. Here's how to be prepared for flooding.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When it comes to severe weather most people's minds jump straight to wind, hail, hurricanes or tornadoes. However, you may be shocked to learn that none of these categories are actually the most deadly form of severe weather. 

According to statistics from The National Weather Service (NWS), the deadliest of all severe weather categories is actually flooding. Not even lightning causes more deaths per year on average, and the only weather related topic found to be more deadly are heat waves.

Part of the reason for this high rate of impact to life is how often flooding is underestimated by people living through it. Every time a road floods you can find someone trying to drive through and getting stuck when their vehicle floats or stalls out. 

Not only does this put their life at risk, but the lives of those who have to rescue them as well. For that reason, the NWS promotes the saying "Turn Around, Don't Drown" in all of their flooding awareness materials. 

Keep that in mind as we look at some advice around flooding and how to understand flood related alerts. 

Flood Safety Tips:

  • Never play in flood waters. They may contain strong currents or hazardous materials.
  • If flooding is occurring or expected to occur, and you live in a low-lying area, move to higher ground. 
  • NEVER drive through a flooded roadway or around a barricade. 
    • The road may be washed out below. 
    • You cannot tell how deep the water is or how strong the currents are.
    • 6 inches of water can cause cars to lose control or stall. 
    • 1 foot of water will float most vehicles.
    • 2 feet of water will take almost any vehicle, including trucks/SUVs.
  • Do not walk through moving water, 6 inches of rushing water can knock you down. 
  • If you must walk through non-moving water, use a stick to check the ground ahead of you.
Credit: Michael Behrens
Keep these tips in mind when flooding is occurring or expected to occur.

Understanding Flood Alerts:

  • Watches: Like with other weather alerts, a watch means flooding conditions could occur, while a warning means they are occurring or are imminent. 
  • Flood Advisory: Minor flooding expected, mostly in low lying areas. Not a major threat to life or property.
  • Flood Warning: Life/property threatening flooding is expected. Water rise over a period longer than 6 hours.
  • Flash Flood Warning: Life/property threatening flooding expected with waters rising rapidly and violently, happening in less than 6 hours time. May be issued related to ongoing rainfall or dam/levee failure.
  • River Flood Warning: Life/property threatening flooding is expected along and near a waterway. Waters will rise above, or stay above, flood stage for a given waterway. As water continues to drain into the waterway after a rain event has passed, river flooding can last for days or weeks at a time.

Regardless of the type of flooding event, one thing is always the same. You need to take them seriously. Only by respecting the power of flood waters, and the dangers they pose, can we work to lower the amount of people who fall victim to them every year.

Part of that effort is accomplished by being prepared for severe weather events, and you can trust the 13 ON YOUR SIDE Weather Team to keep you up to date on all the latest information and alerts when flooding or other severe weather threatens West Michigan! 

-- Meteorologist Michael Behrens

Follow me on social media! Facebook Meteorologist Michael Behrens, Twitter @MikeBehrensWX, and Instagram @MikeBehrensWX

Email me at: MBehrens@13OnYourSide.com

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