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What to do if you get caught in a flood

(Dunker Ames)

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SALT LAKE CITY — How can Utahns best prepare, and what should they do, if faced with flash flooding like that in Hildale and Zion National Park?

Unified Fire Authority's Swift Water Rescue team said flood waters can appear without any warning no matter where you are.

"It's hard to anticipate how quickly that water will come," said Desmond Johnson of the Unified Fire Authority.

How can you stay safe if you're outdoors during flooding? Follow these safety tips:

Be aware

Check the weather and forecast before heading out, especially in areas prone to flooding and pay attention to the warning signs, Johnson said. The National Weather Service's extensive coverage of conditions across the state can help you localize the information. Its Salt Lake Twitter is also a helpful resource for quick updates statewide. Check radar images if you want to see what's coming up. And if you're in your car, KSL Newsradio gives weather updates every 10 minutes on the 9s.

Unified Fire Authority recommends Be Ready Utah for detailed plans for emergency situations.

A flood warning means a flood is imminent. A flood watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a flood to occur. Flood advisories indicate a weather incident may be a nuisance and pose possible threats like slick trails or roads.

A white car was swept away in the flash flood that killed at least 12 people near Hildale. (Photo: Stace Hall/KSL-TV)
A white car was swept away in the flash flood that killed at least 12 people near Hildale. (Photo: Stace Hall/KSL-TV)

Flash floods do not always happen in areas receiving rain and can occur miles downstream from rainfall, dam or levee breakage and other events, according to the NWS. Look for water stains on canyon walls and debris, especially in areas with rocky or sandy ground that doesn't absorb water well. Always know where your escape — the higher ground — is.

Turn around, don't drown

Move at the first sign of rain and get out of any moving water as quickly as possible.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says 6 inches of water is enough to knock an adult off their feet, 1 foot of water will float a vehicle and 2 feet of water can wash away the vehicle. The majority of flood-related deaths occur when a vehicle is driving into flood waters or when people walk near or in flood waters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Do not cross floodwaters. Turn around and move to higher ground.

Make yourself visible

If you get stuck in rising waters, Johnson advises you keep your feet pointed downstream then yell and wave your arms.

"The biggest problem is locating a person," said Johnson. "The more visible they are, the more noise they are making, if they can get the attention of somebody, that helps us out."

Celeste Tholen Rosenlof
    Brittany Copeland


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