Staying safe during flash flood season

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Paul Fernandez
  • 99th Air Base Wing Safety
July is here with high temperatures and a high chance of flash flooding. The months with the highest probability for thunderstorms are July through September. 

Las Vegas' annual rainfall is approximately 4.13 inches, and while this may not seem like a lot of rain, the elevation of Las Vegas makes a big difference. Elevation levels in the Las Vegas valley are lower than the surrounding area, which causes the water to flow into it.

According to the Clark County Regional Flood Control District, there have been 11 major floods since 1960. These floods have claimed the lives of 31 people and have cost of more than $1 million per flood.

Storm drains and flood channels throughout Las Vegas are designed to divert water via the Las Vegas Wash to Lake Mead. These storm drains often become blocked by debris, objects and trash, resulting in an overwhelming amount of water overflowing onto the roadways. Las Vegas residents can help eliminate this situation by throwing cigarette butts, fast food wrappers, and any other trash or debris into proper trash receptacles.

Residents should report clogged storm drains to the Regional Flood Control District by calling 575-455-3139. The Clark County program "Only Rain in the Storm Drain" reminds residents how to keep these storm drains clean of unnecessary debris. 

Roadways and highways are a major concern during flooding. "When flooded turn around, don't drown," is the slogan that the NWS uses for flood awareness.

More than half of all flood-related fatalities result from driving through hazardous flood waters. Walking through flood water is the next highest percentage of fatalities.  

Flash floods should be taken very seriously all year round. Help keep the storm drains and Las Vegas Wash clean by disposing of trash and chemicals appropriately.

Keep yourself aware by paying attention to the television and NWS on the radio whenever it is raining. One of the most important things to be aware of is to remember a "flood watch" means the possibility of flooding exists and a "flood warning" means flooding is or will occur.

Follow all road signs and barriers, and do not drive or walk through flooded waters. Remember these tips during a flash flood to keep yourself and family safe:
· Remember a watch means a flash flood is possible
· A warning means that a flash flood is occurring or is nearby
· Watch the television or listen to the National Weather Service for updates on flooding 
· Be ready to evacuate your home if necessary
· Traveling to higher ground is always a safe bet, whether at home or traveling in vehicles
· If you are asked to evacuate your home due to flooding, do so immediately
· Electrical fires can start as a result of flood damage
· Don't allow your children to play or swim in flood water because it is often contaminated
· Night time is more dangerous during flooding due to decreased visibility
· The majority of injuries that occur in flash floods are from persons, vehicles or property being swept away
· With moving water, it is important to keep in mind that six inches of water will knock a person from their feet and 24 inches of water will lift and move a vehicle
· Don't drive through flooded areas
· Remember, "Turn Around, Don't Drown"