In my area of the Pacific Northwest there are a lot of bodies of water. Depending on which way I drive home, I cross either two or three rivers via bridge. I’m always worried about what will happen if one or more of the rivers are damaged due to an earthquake or some other unforseen disaster. I have advised before that people who live in areas prone to flash floods that they get a rowboat that they keep at home, or a kayak or inflatable raft that they keep in their car.

I don’t have a raft yet but it’s on my prepper shopping list to get one to keep in the trunk of my car, probably along with an inflator of some kind. A decent two-person raft is a bigger expense than what my budget can usually handle. But just typing this out is making my blood pressure rise from nervousness, so getting one and having that piece of mind is definitely worth something! If any of you have purchased inflatable rafts or kayaks or something that you have stored for an emergency, do let me know what you bought and why.

Anyway, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I would get home if the bridges I have to cross are damaged. The water in some places is not too deep, but it is definitely too deep to walk across.

If you do have to get across a river in an emergency, here are some things to know:

  1. The narrower spot may not be the best spot to cross. – if it’s narrower it can be deeper and the movement more swift. Flat, wide channels are usually shallower.
  2. Check what’s downstream. – If the water is fast, you’re likely to get swept away. Maybe there’s a danger down the way that you will want to know about.
  3. Does the bridge have an inspection basket? – I have never used an inspection basket to cross a bridge! But people have told me that some spans have baskets that are manually operated that go across the bridge on cables. These are used by inspectors to get up close to the bridge. If the bridge itself is impassable, perhaps the basket would still work. I welcome anyone who knows more about this to get in touch with more information to share.
  4. Read the river. Most of us will never be able to read a river as well as Mark Twain did, but there are some things that even non-river guides or riverboat captains can know.
    • Trees near the bank can have roots that trap you. Avoid these “strainers.”
    • “Pillow rocks” are smooth flows of water over an under-the-surface hazard.
    • Eddies can make the current unpredictable and fast.
    • Vs in the water indicate a submerged object.
    • foam piles churn the water around like a washing machine. It’s hard to paddle in these sections also, because the foam means the water is filled with so much air the paddle won’t go through it.
  5. If you do get washed away, position yourself so that your legs are straight and straight out in front of you. If you can, right?!
  6. Remove any unnecessary clothing or gear. Takes your socks off and pack them deep inside your bag to perhaps keep them dry.
  7. Position your pack so that you can release it if you need to so that you can get unstuck or it prevents you from being dragged under.

All of these things will help. But you must also know the water in your area. Try to investigate on maps where some crossings might be that may not be right where your bridge goes over. Know where other bridges are. If you can find a nearby bridge that is not damaged, that may get you across. If you can find a shallower place to cross that’s a few miles away even, you might go out of your way but you can cross more safely.

Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Forbes had an interesting article that I thought was worth sharing to our audience here.

Take a look at this map of what the future USA might look like:

Source: Matrix Institute from a map by Gordon-Michael Scallion

I’ve long known that billionaires like Ted Turner had very large parcels of land in the central United States. But I always thought that was just because they liked the privacy and the ranching life, with cows and stuff. But maybe there’s more to it than that?

What does this map of the US make you think of? This is what some experts are saying the United States might look like if a pole shift caused massive flooding along the existing coastlines. That Forbes article kind of goes into it all…in the early 1980s there was a “spiritualist” named Gordon-Michael Scallion who reportedly believed that he had been given visions of a very detailed future map of the US. He believed that a shift in Earth’s magnetic poles would result from nuclear weapons, global warming and misuse of technology and that it would unleash catastrophic flooding.

Another spiritualist named Edgar Cayce predicted that volcanic activity would result in massive flooding on the west coast. While NASA denies that there is significant risk to the Earth from collisions with asteroids, they do have an asteroid watch website. The Forbes article references a planetary science researcher who says that the most likely scenario to cause a future like the one predicted by Scallion is an asteroid impact.

Maybe, the billionaire’s plans to buy up property in America’s heartland isn’t just because they like cows.

When you know there’s a storm coming like Hurricane Harvey, you know to expect that there will likely be dangerous levels of rain and at least the potential for flooding. What I’m talking about here is a “flash flood,” which by its very definition is unpredictable. Combine that unpredictability with the force of rushing water and it’s easy to see why flash floods are deadly. So what can you do?

Floods can happen anywhere, anywhere it rains, not just in places where it rains alot. And surprisingly, according to NSSL, the National Severe Storms Laboratory, in the U.S. floods kill more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning.

What are the risks of flash floods?

Places where there are a lot of roads, buildings or sidewalks (you average city in other words) are at risk for flash floods, because water can’t be absorbed through those surfaces. If there’s a lot of water all at once, it has nowhere to go. City storm drains can’t handle a lot of water all at once.

Riverside environments
It’s nice to live by a river, but these are the areas that are at highest danger of flooding in general. Embankments or levees are built to withstand what is considered a reasonable amount of water, but they might not be build high enough to handle an abnormal amount of water.

It’s not likely that dam would fail, but not impossible. Again, according to NSSL, in 1889 a dam break upstream from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, released a 30- to 40 foot wall of water that killed 2,200 people within minutes.

Rocky, clay soil
These soils don’t absorb water. The water keeps flowing along because it can’t absorb into the ground.

Very intense rainfall
Try water a plant that hasn’t been watered in dry weather in several days. You might expect the water to soak right in to the soil, but the opposite happens. It runs off. If the soil is already saturated, likewise, the water will have nowhere to go.

Steep mountains or canyons
Flash floods frequently occur after rainfall in canyons areas, where the soil, geography and steep terrain funnel water into one small area.

Can a flash flood be predicted?

A few inches, like 6 inches or even less of fast-moving water, can knock a person off their feet. A foot of moving water can carry you away. And more than that could carry away something as large as a car.

The reason they’re called “flash floods” is because they really CAN’T be predicted with any certainty. The best you can do is keep yourself aware of the factors that can contribute to a flash flood.

  • Keep an eye on your local weather. If there is a significant rain event, stay aware of it.
  • Keep yourself informed about local emergencies if you live near a dam.
  • If you live near a river or near a place where there is a low water crossing, make it your business to stay informed about weather and water conditions.
  • Is the ground filling up with pools of water? If so, and it continues to rain, that means the soil is getting saturated and there is nowhere for the water to go.
  • Know the higher ground in your area where you can move to if necessary.
  • Do not try to walk through moving water. Even if it looks shallow.
  • Do not try to drive through a flooded road.
  • Have stored water. If there’s a flood the community’s water supply may not be safe to drink.
  • Stay out of buildings that have flooded. Water can cause structural damage.
  • Avoid the mud left over from a flood. It can contain sewage and chemicals.

Be Prepared for Flash Floods

  • Avoid parking your car near water (rivers/streams) when there is a significant rain event.
  • Take a page from Hurricane Harvey lessons and get yourself a rowboat, kayak or inflatable raft that you keep under your bed or in your car.
  • Be aware of the flood warnings:
    -a Flood Watch means flash flooding or flooding is possible within the designated watch area – be alert. This is the lowest warning level.
    -a Flood Warning means flash flooding or flooding has been reported or is imminent – take necessary precautions at once! Get to higher ground! This is serious!
    -An Urban and Small Stream Advisory means that flooding of small streams, streets and low-lying areas, such as railroad underpasses and urban storm drains is occurring. This could be serious!