Do’s and Don’ts During a Flash Flood

Rain and Fog in Zion National Park

Flash Floods

Flash Floods make water levels rise rapidly. Within minutes and sometimes seconds rising water can be at dangerous levels; meaning life-threatening. If you are in a slot canyon (rock walls on either side of you while you are walking or hiking), you could be in danger even if it’s not raining directly where you are hiking. Some of these washes and canyons are interconnected for 100s of miles. This means that if there is a rain-storm that isn’t in the vicinity of your direct hiking path you could still be at danger from a storm that is happening or has happened 100s of miles away from you. Water always takes the path of least resistance. If you are in its way, then you could be in danger of being swept away by a flash flood in Zion National Park or the vicinity.

Do’s and Don’ts of Flash Floods:

1. Look at the weather forecast. If there is a good chance that it might rain do not go into a narrow canyon, there is no escaping a wall of water. You cannot “out-muscle” it or hold your breath. It’s just not going to happen. Please understand that in a weather forecast what percentage of rain means. If they say there is a 50 percent chance of rain, what they mean is that 50 percent of the area surveyed will most likely receive rain. What they don’t mean is that it’s a 50/50 chance that it will rain or not. They expect that 50 percent of the area will receive rain.
2. Listen for thunder. If you hear noise get out of the canyon. If there are rock walls on either side of you, you could be in grave danger.
3. Listen for sounds of roaring water upstream. Watch for rising water levels. If the water that you are walking through is muddy, this may be a sign that its flood water. If the water current seems stronger than usual, that means there is an increase in water volume, and this has to come from somewhere, and the most likely culprit is rainwater upstream in the form of flooding.

Be Alert, Be Vigilant, Be Aware

Flooding can come during any time of year or any season. Typically in the Southwest, we are at risk during the “late summer monsoon season.” Be alert. While hiking in Zion always look for escape routes just in case flooding occurs. Be vigilant while hiking. Use your senses to detect flooding and be prepared to go to higher ground if necessary.

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