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Flash Floods: Causal Factors, Impact, and Safety Measures

Ajanta Bhattacharyya May 13, 2019
A flash flood is a natural disaster that causes sudden floods. Let's take a look at what causes this phenomenon and its related safety measures.
Floods are a natural calamity that causes a lot of destruction. They are caused by heavy rainfall. This caused the water level to rise and flow into low-lying areas.
A flash flood can occur without warning. It can be triggered by the failure of a dam, levee, or a thunderstorm, affecting a localized area within seconds. It has the devastating power to change the direction of rivers, and can submerge large areas under mud, almost instantly.


Surveys reveal that due to flash floods, more than 70,000 Americans become shelterless, and more than 120 individuals are killed every year. Unlike common floods, a flash flood can repeatedly occur within a short time span, and can create havoc during the rains.
Within seconds, the water level can rise and engulf an entire area. There are different types of flash floods, such as intense rainfall flood, glacial lake outburst flood, landslide dam outburst flood, etc. In the United States, flash floods occur mainly during winter due to the rapid melting of ice.

Damage Caused

Flash floods create havoc among people. It affects the agricultural sector, damages private property and infrastructure, such as roads, drainage system, etc. There are two types of damages caused by it, i.e. direct and indirect damages.
Direct damages caused by the tremendous force of floodwater include:
  • Destruction of the drainage system in cities.
  • Contamination of water due to chemical waste, paint, pesticide, gasoline, etc.
  • Loss of life due to drowning.
  • Destruction of farmlands, and crops.
These floods also have an indirect effect in a number of ways. The many ill effects of this phenomenon are mentioned here:
  • Roads and rail lines are broken, and hence the whole transportation system gets disrupted.
  • Drinking water could get polluted, which could lead to many health problems.
  • The sudden onrush of the flood can damage crops, which could lead to scarcity of food, and starvation.
  • Electric and gas service may get interrupted.
  • People could lose their business or occupation.
  • Economic productivity slows down.
The most devastating impact of flash floods on the geographical location of the area is that it changes the direction of a river. This can cause heavy economic losses. Over time, insurance companies may try to protect themselves by increasing rates of flood insurance. In areas more prone to this climatic hazard, safety measures need to be considered.

Safety Measures

Installing a flash flood warning system in the community is of prime importance. During flash flood, some safety measures to save life and property can be followed.
  • Pack your valuable items, such as personal documents, certificates in a sealed bag.
  • Turn-off the electricity in your house.
  • Have a flood disaster plan handy.
  • Call on the emergency services at the earliest, if you get a flood warning.
  • While waiting for the emergency services, you are advised to move toward higher grounds.
Though flash floods create a panic situation, following proper safety measures can help insure minimal losses to lives. The only requirement is our alertness. The more alert you are , the lesser damage you will have to deal with.