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Monday, October 18, 2010

Hiking Tips: 9 Signs of a Flash Flood

You’re hiking up a narrow canyon. You look down and notice something startling about the stream that you have been following. It is now

Increased suspended load gives this flooded st...
becoming clogged with debris including twigs, sticks, needles and leaves. You know that this is a sign of an impending flash flood and warn your hiking companions to start heading to higher ground.
Anytime you are hiking in a canyon, you must be alert for such signs. A flash flood can sweep you away with little warning like a roaring freight train. Here are nine signs that should alert you to the possibility of a flash flood:

1. Heavy clouds, especially thunderclouds, are forming upstream. The origin of a flash flood may be miles upstream. Always check the weather for the complete watershed where you will be hiking.
2. Water in the stream or river is getting deeper and faster.
3. The stream is turning muddy.
4. The stream is filling with debris.
5. You notice water stains on canyon walls. These show that there has been flooding in the past.
6. You see debris hanging from bushes and low branches. This is another sign of past flooding.
7. You notice wet ground, puddles and other signs of recent rain. These signs could indicate that the soil is saturated. Soil that is saturated already increases the likelihood of another flood.
8. You are tramping on rocky ground. If you’re hiking on slabs of stone or lots of rocks, the ground beneath you may not absorb water very well. In this case, flooding is more likely.
9. You hear an approaching roar in the Canyon.
If you observe any of these signs of a flash flood you need to be vigilant and ready to head to higher ground.
by Richard Davidian, Ph.D.

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