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Flooding, the dangers and how it can happen

Flood dangers and the risk in our area
Flooding on Quicksburg Road, submitted to WHSV by Kelsey
Flooding on Quicksburg Road, submitted to WHSV by Kelsey(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 9:17 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2022 at 9:17 PM EST
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One of the biggest dangers in our region is flooding and flooding can come from several different scenarios.

How Flooding Happens

  • Flooding from thunderstorms. This can happen most often when a storm is slow moving, or when a storm moves over an area already saturated by previous rainfall. Pay close attention when slow moving storms are in the forecast.
  • Flooding from consistent rain over a period of time. This would be several days of rain or even a rainy pattern over a few weeks. This can also happen if a stationary front is across or near the area.
  • Intense heavy rain on dry ground which leads to excessive runoff. With the ground being dry the rain is falling much heavier than the ground can absorb.
  • Inland flooding from tropical systems
  • Rapid melting snow after a big snowstorm, either from quickly rising temperatures, rain on top of snow of a combination of both.

Types of Floods

There are a few types of flooding our area may experience.

Flash Flooding

The most dangerous is flash flooding. Flash flooding is just that, it can happen in a flash. When a flash flood warning is issued, you may not have much time.

You also may have to get to higher ground, or go to the top level of the building you are in.

The worst thing you can do is get into a vehicle. Most flooding deaths happen in vehicles. If you see flash flooding, do not attempt to drive across or through it. The water is typically deeper than you think it is. It can rise quickly and wash your car away.

Flash Flooding Dangers
Flash Flooding Dangers(NOAA)

The devastating flood from Staunton in August of 2020 was an extreme case of flash flooding after a storm stalled over the city.

Flash Flooding and Camping

Another concern with flash flooding is campgrounds. Often these areas are by water or in low spots. Pay close attention to the forecast when planning a camping trip.

River Flooding

With so many rivers and creeks across the region, there are many times when the rivers will flood yet flooding is only confined to areas near creeks or rivers. Water can spill over slabs or low water bridges, or even across main roads especially in low spots.

River flooding from September 2018 after heavy rain from Hurricane Florence fell on an already...
River flooding from September 2018 after heavy rain from Hurricane Florence fell on an already saturated ground(whsv)

Hurricane and Tropical Storm Flooding

Some of the worst widespread flooding across our region has been inland flooding from remnant hurricanes or tropical storms. Recent examples include Hurricane Isabel in 2003, Hurricane Fran in 1996 and Hurricane Juan/The Election Day floods in 1985

Remembering Hurricane Fran, from 1996
Remembering Hurricane Fran, from 1996

Statistics on weather fatalities

The number 1 weather killer is heat. It’s been heat for a long time.

However the number 2 weather killer is flood water. Not scary tornadoes or unpredictable lightning, it’s flooding.

In 2020 compared to 10 and 30 year average
In 2020 compared to 10 and 30 year average(NWS)

The bottom line

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