Stay safe when flood waters rise

Part 4 of 5 parts

Editor’s note: while there are no extremely large rivers in Franklin County like there are in many counties around the state,there are lots of waterways and some of our elks and streams frequently flood during prolonged rainy periods such as the National Weather is predicting over the next few weeks. Rules outlined here are important even in Franklin County.

FRANKLIN COUNTY — Pennsylvania has an extensive river system that is scenic and beautiful. Most of the towns and cities were founded on the banks of a river or large creek. This means that when river levels rise, many people will be affected at the same time.

Rising river waters can become destructive, and even deadly. Significant, widespread river floods occur in Pennsylvania almost every year.

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What Causes River Floods?

Generally, river floods happen due to prolonged periods of widespread heavy rainfall. Our rivers can flood anytime of the year. In spring and summer, complexes of slow moving thunderstorms can cause the rivers to flood. During late summer and fall, heavy rain from tropical storms and hurricanes are the biggest cause of river flooding.

Sometimes an extensive snow melt occurs at the same time as heavy rain. This is especially true in late winter and early spring when the snow pack of the previous winter melts away.

The destructive flooding of January 1996 was one such situation where snow melt and heavy rain combined to push river levels even higher.

River flooding can result in widespread property damage and may result in loss of life. More than 50 percent of the deaths associated with flooding are automobile related.

What Does a Flood Watch Mean?

A Flood Watch means there is potential for flooding to occur, not that river flooding is occurring.

A Flood Watch is typically issued for an area many counties in size, and is usually issued 12 to 24 hours before flooding is expected to start.

With the advance notice of a watch, you will have more time to prepare for the flooding.

What You Should Do When a Flood Watch Is Issued:

  • Go about your normal activities, but make periodic checks of NOAA Weather Radio or other media outlets for updates and possible flood warnings.
  • Listen for river level forecasts from the National Weather Service.
  • Get ready to move your personal property out of the areas that are known to flood.
  • If you live in the flood plain, be prepared to evacuate if ordered to do so.
  • If you live or work in an area which is prone to flooding, have a safe evacuation route to use if flooding occurs.
  • Make sure everyone in your home or office knows where to go if flooding occurs.
  • Move up to higher ground to escape flood waters.
  • Keep a battery operated radio, and several working flashlights available.
  • Take precautions to secure your property.

What Does a River Flood Warning Mean?

A River Flood Warning means that river levels will exceed flood stage at certain points along our larger rivers, like the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers.

Because river floods take longer to develop than flash flooding does, river floods may not pose as much of a threat to life, But, river floods can take a much larger toll on property and infrastructure.

What You Should You Do When a River Flood Warning Is Issued:

  • Gather all necessary items, including medicine and clothing, in the event that you cannot return home for several days.
  • Make arrangements to protect your property by moving your valuables to higher ground, or to an upper level of your home.
  • Obey evacuation orders from emergency management or local law enforcement officials, avoiding any roads that are or may be covered with water.

For additional information on river flooding and severe weather check out National Weather Service’s website.

Our weather safety topic for Friday will be Skywarn Severe Weather Spotters.

5 Part Series

Part 3 Flash Flooding | April 24, 2019
Part 2 Thunderstorms | Published on April 23, 2019
Part 1 Tornadoes | Published Apr 22, 2019
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