Flooding can occur in almost every part of the U.S. and during any month. In 2012, 39 percent of flood fatalities occurred from driving into flood water and 18 percent from walking into it. The reason so many people drown during flooding is because few of them realize the incredible power of water.
It only takes six inches of water to knock over an adult or cause loss of control of a vehicle. Twelve inches (1 foot) of water will float many vehicles and only two (2) feet of rushing water will carry them away, including pickups and 4000 pound SUVs.
Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather-related hazard. The Centers for Disease Control report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. Why? The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.
The depth of flood water is not always obvious. It can be especially hard to judge at night. The best option is to play it safe and turn around. If you’re driving or walking and encounter flood water, turn around. Don’t drown.*
In locations throughout the U.S., summer thunderstorms can produce localized flash floods and and significant ponding in a very short period of time. Heavy rains and downpours can easily and quickly produce enough water to drive small rivers and streams well over their banks for a short, but significant period of time. Thus, even driving to the airport or anywhere during a thunderstorm, can pose hazards, like flooding and lowered visibilities that must be taken seriously.
Clearly for pilots, there is nothing good about thunderstorms. The most general type (as opposed to a severe thunderstorm) can still bring heavy rain, lightning, and possibly hail. The thunderstorm doesn’t even have to be over the airport or in the approach or departure path to be a significant hazard to aviation. Any thunderstorm can hold the potential to toss hail out of its updraft or anvil for inordinate distances. Additionally, lightning can strike 15 or more miles away from the parent thunderstorm.
Of course there are other dangerous elements associated with a thunderstorm including low-level winds and wind shear associated with storm outflow and gust fronts. Deteriorating visibility associated with lowering ceilings and rain showers are also hazards associated with thunderstorms. That is why they must always be taken seriously. The potential is there…