Texas weather can change in an instant.
And recent rains mean soils have become saturated. A saturated soil means any additional rainfall has the potential to cause flooding. The additional rainfall will move downhill, filling creeks, streams and rivers. And as rainfall increases, rivers begin to swell, moving faster and, at times, creating flood conditions.
Reservoirs too can become full during rain events requiring floodgate releases to protect the dams when there is no space left to hold additional water. The Brazos River Authority and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer hydrologists work together and in coordination with other agencies, such as the National Weather Service West Gulf River Forecast Center and the US Geological Survey, to manage water releases.
There is great natural beauty to enjoy when you live close to the Brazos River or reservoir, but the tradeoff is being aware of and prepared for flooding.
And Texas is no stranger to flooding.
In fact, southeast Texas has turned into one of the top hot spots in the country for heavy-rainfall events, according to a 2019 article in the Washington Post. Three of the top 10 wettest tropical weather systems (Imelda, Florence and Harvey) on record struck the United States in 25 months, and five states set new tropical rainfall records, according to the article.
Sometimes floods develop slowly, and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs. Oftentimes flash floods can occur within minutes and sometimes without any sign of rain. Floods are among the most common weather hazards in the United States and can happen anywhere, at any time of year. According to the American Red Cross, flash floods are the No. 1 weather-related killer in the U.S.
Here are some tips from the National Weather Service to ensure you and your loved ones aren’t caught off guard:
- Create a Communications Plan:
It is crucial to be able to communicate with your family and friends in the event of a disaster. Whether it is having a specific person identified to contact for status updates or a safe location to meet up with family members, having a plan in place will give you peace of mind if disaster does strike.
- Assemble an Emergency Kit
It is good practice to have enough food, water and medicine on hand at all times to last you at least three days in the case of an emergency. Water service may be interrupted or unsafe to drink, and food requiring little cooking and no refrigeration may be needed if electric power is interrupted. You should also have batteries, blankets, flashlights, first aid kit, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a NOAA Weather Radio or other battery-operated radio easily available.
- Know Your Risk
Is your home, business or school in a floodplain? Where is water likely to collect on the roadways you most often travel? What is the fastest way to get to higher ground? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time can save your life.
- Sign Up for Notifications
The Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service provides RSS feeds for observed forecast and alert river conditions to help keep the public informed about local water conditions.
Tragedies often occur when people underestimate the effect water can have on a moving vehicle, according to the National Weather Service. Almost half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle-related, according to the National Weather Service. If you're driving and approach a water-covered road, turn around. Just 6 inches of water can stall a vehicle, and 2 feet can float most cars, trucks and SUVs.
These are especially important reminders as the Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be unusually active. The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30, with August and September being its peak season. There are an expected 18 named storms – 9 of them hurricanes – predicted this season, according to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. That’s higher than the seasonal average of 12 named storms, including 6 hurricanes, determined by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
So, what’s the difference between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning issued by the National Weather Service?
- Flood Advisory: Be Aware: A Flood Advisory is issued when a specific weather event that is forecast to occur may become a nuisance. A Flood Advisory is issued when flooding is not expected to be bad enough to issue a warning. However, it may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.
- Flood Watch: Be Prepared: A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.
- Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. If you are in a flood-prone area, move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain.
Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.