Arizona flash flood prompts discussion about warning systems in remote areas.
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group)- Gila County Sheriff's officials recently said they believe they have found the remains of Hector Miguel Garnica, a victim of last week’s flash flood north of Phoenix.
The flash flood has claimed 10 lives including Garnica’s wife, three children and extended family. The family was swimming at a local watering hole in Tonto National Forest when the flood occurred. They were gathered to celebrate Garnica’s wife’s birthday. Only four of the family members survived the floodwaters.
Some parts of the Tonto National Forest have limited cell service. Officials in the area have said the family had no warning at the time about the surge of water heading in their direction.
The incident is prompting questions about what more can be done to warn the public about the dangers of floods in rural areas.
Currently, Tonto National Forest does not have a system in place to warn visitors about Flash Flood warnings.
Here are five things you should know about flash floods:
1. Flash floods can occur when it’s not raining in your area
Flash floods can occur within minutes or hours of a large rainfall or sudden release of water, like a dam or levee failure. Common weather occurrences that can lead to flash floods are, slow moving thunder storms or thunder storms that frequently move over the same area, hurricanes, tropical storms and even thawing snow.
2. Flash Flood Watch v. Flash Flood Warning
The National Weather Service places flash floods into three categories: Flash flood advisory, flash flood watch and flash flood warning.
Advisories are issued when flooding will not be significant enough to issue a warning but might cause significant inconvenience in the area. A watch is when conditions are favorable but does not mean that a flood will occur. A warning indicates a flash flood is occurring or may be imminent.
3. Most flood related deaths are due to flash floods.
In 2016, a National Weather Service report said 86 people were killed by flash floods. Since 2006, at least 680 people have died in flash floods.
The worst flash flood in U.S. history was 1889 when a dam collapsed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and killed at least 2,200 people. The wall of water was reported between 36 and 40 feet in height.
4. Never drive through floodwaters, even if appears shallow.
The total number of flash flood and river flood deaths in 2016 was 126 deaths and 46 percent of people were killed in a vehicle. NWS states that just 2 feet of water can float your car.
“For each foot the water rises up the side of the car, the car displaces 1,500 lbs. of water. In effect, the car weighs 1,500 lbs. less for each foot the water rises.”
If you see floodwaters it is best to turn your car around and go a different way and seek higher ground. Its best to avoid low dips in road ways and bridges.
5. A flash flooding can occur in all 50 states
While some areas of the U.S. may be susceptible to flash floods on a regular basis, the NWS warns that these floods can occur anywhere if the conditions are right.
NWS suggest having a plan before these types of incidents occur, creating an emergency kit and understanding the fastest way to get to higher ground if you live in a flood prone area. They also suggest making sure that your electronics are charged and that you have signed up for notifications.
The American Red Cross warns against storing bathing and drinking water in bathtubs in the event of a weather emergency.
“Water stored in bathtubs and sinks should never be used for drinking or for bathing young children because lead can leak from the glaze in bathtubs and sinks into water stored in them. However, you can use water stored in bathtubs and sinks for flushing the toilet or washing the floor or clothing,” the statement said.
For more information about floods and how to prepare your family, check out the National Weather Service website.
Editor’s Note: Information and facts on flash floods are from the National Weather Service unless otherwise cited.