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Peter Kummerfeldt: How to avoid becoming a flash flood victim

Peter Kummerfeldt: How to avoid becoming a flash flood victim


Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the United States. Here are some of the things to look for in an area that might have a flash flood.

by Peter Kummerfeldt

flash flood 2

Never try to cross a high rising stream. (USGS photo)

Most flash flooding is caused by slow-moving thunderstorms repeatedly moving over the same area, or heavy rains from hurricanes and tropical storms. The two key elements that contribute to flash flooding are rainfall intensity and duration. Intensity is the rate of rainfall, and duration is how long the rain lasts.

Topography, soil conditions, and ground cover also play an important role.  Flash floods can occur within a few minutes or may occur within hours of heavy rainfall.  Rapidly rising water can reach heights of thirty feet or more and can trigger catastrophic mud slides.

Here are some safety rules:

  • Pay attention to the warnings and watches announced by the National Weather Service and your local radio.  You will not always have a warning that these deadly, sudden floods are coming.  Many deaths occur because the victims waited too long to take action or were distracted while trying to save personal belongings.
  • Never try to walk, swim, or drive through swift water. If you come upon flood waters, STOP! TURN AROUND AND GO ANOTHER WAY. Even six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet and water two feet deep will float your car!
  • Plan Ahead.  Determine ahead of time where you would go if told to evacuate.  Select higher ground where you could climb above the high water.  Many flash floods occur at night, greatly complicating evacuation efforts!
  • The sound of distant thunder could forewarn you of flooding.
  • Watch for quickly rising water and if present take action quickly

A weather radio is the best means to receive warnings from the National Weather Service which continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings

Water under one foot in depth can sweep a car off the road.

Water two feet deep can float a car. (National Weather Service  photo)

and forecasts. Depending on topography, the average range for these radios is about 40 miles.  Purchase a radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.

Stay informed about the weather by listening to NOAA weather radio, commercial radio, and television for the latest watches warnings, and advisories. Plan your activities around the forecasted weather.  Decide what you will do when the weather deteriorates and implement the plan before you are in danger.

Weather can make you very uncomfortable but, with some preparation, it shouldn’t kill you!

Peter Kummerfeldt has walked the talk in the wilderness survival field for decades.

Peter Kummerfeldt

 Peter grew up in Kenya, East Africa and came to America in 1965 and joined the U.S. Air Force. He is a graduate of the Air Force Survival Instructor Training School and has served as an instructor at the Basic Survival School, Spokane, Washington; the Arctic Survival School, Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Jungle Survival School, Republic of the Philippines. For twelve years, Peter was the Survival Training Director at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. He retired from the Air Force in 1995 after 30 years of service.

In 1992, concerned with the number of accidents that were occurring in the outdoors annually and the number of tourists traveling overseas who were involved in unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening incidents Peter created OutdoorSafe.com

He is the author of Surviving a Wilderness Emergency and has addressed over 20,000 people as the featured speaker at numerous seminars, conferences and national conventions.

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Leon's Blog

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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