California storm live updates: Latest news on atmospheric river, flooding and rain

California storm live updates: Latest news on atmospheric river, flooding and rain

When heavy rain falls in a short period of time, rushing water can flood homes and basement apartments, overtake cars and knock people off their feet. Flash floods can develop quickly, within hours or even minutes; It often catches people by surprise, killing an average of 88 people in the United States each year.

“Flash floods occur when large amounts of water flow very quickly,” said Bonnie Schneider, a meteorologist and author of Extreme Weather. And climate change is exacerbating the risks: Warmer air holds more moisture, which could lead to heavier and more intense rainfall, Ms. Schneider said.

Although flash floods are scary, experts say you can increase your odds of survival by staying informed and making a plan. Here’s what to do in advance – and right now – to weather a flash flood safely.

Understand the difference between different alerts.

The National Weather Service currently issues severe weather alerts in English and Spanish.

If there is a “severe flood watch,” according to the service, flooding is not guaranteed, but conditions are favorable enough for it to be possible, so be prepared to change your plans.

A Flash Flood Warning means that flooding is imminent or already occurring, and you should immediately move to higher ground if you are outside or in a basement apartment.

The most serious alert is a “flash flood emergency,” which indicates that floods are not only occurring, but that they pose a serious threat to human life. In 2021, New York City received its first such notification during heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ida.

Before the flood

make a plan

Long before rain is on the radar, the first step is knowing how to communicate with your family, meet them and evacuate if there is a flash flood emergency. How to escape from your home if necessary? Who will be responsible for your children? Where would you meet if your family separated? The American Red Cross has printable templates to help guide your conversation.

You’ll also need to assess the flood risks to your home, business and school, as well as the roads in between. Flood maps developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are a good place to start. (If you live in a flood zone, you may also want to consider purchasing flood insurance.)

Prepare your Go Bag now

If you need to leave your home in a hurry, it’s essential to have an emergency kit that is easily accessible and full of supplies. Consider adding shelf-stable foods; Water or portable filtration system. Change of clothing Headlamp or flashlight with batteries; phone charger; monetary; And first aid kit. If you have pets, don’t forget food, leashes, and portable bowls for them as well. also recommends creating “password-protected digital copies” of important papers, such as birth certificates, ID cards, insurance policies, wills, deeds and titles.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, it’s not, said Dr. David Markinson, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross Training Services. “Obviously the human nature aspect is nothing to worry about,” he said. A lot of people think it won’t happen to me.

But having a plan can help you make better choices in emergency situations, says Sabine Marks, senior trainer at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. As she described it, she didn’t want “to have to make this decision right away when I also fear for my life.”

During the flood

Stay alert

If a storm is expected or underway, pay attention to local weather alerts via your phone, radio or TV. In the event of a power outage, a battery-powered radio can be helpful.

Be prepared to evacuate

If there’s a possibility you’ll have to leave your home, gather essential items not already in your “suitcase” — driver’s licenses, credit cards, medications, key documents — and seal them in a waterproof bag. (A plastic freezer bag works well.) Make sure your phone is charged, and if you have time, unplug small appliances so they don’t get damaged by electrical surges. Move valuables to a higher floor (if you have one).

If you live in a basement apartment, be extra vigilant when it comes to monitoring rainstorms, said Julie Munger, founder of Sierra Rescue International, an organization that has trained fast-water rescuers for 35 years. If you think you may be in danger, she recommended moving immediately to a higher floor or evacuating to another location. (To find emergency shelter, text SHELTER and your zip code to 43362.) FEMA warns against climbing into a locked attic, as you may become trapped by rising floodwaters. If necessary, climb onto the roof.

If you find yourself in a worst-case scenario where water is pouring into your apartment, you need to act quickly, Munger said. “Don’t wait, don’t grab anything, just get out,” she added, because if you can’t get out, your only option is to “hope the water doesn’t fill the entire apartment.”

According to Dr. Markinson, it’s important to follow updates closely, since conditions can change quickly. If you are asked to evacuate, do so. Check road closures on your state’s Department of Transportation website before heading out if there is time, and take an alternate route if you encounter a flooded road.

Dr Markinson said the biggest problem with flash floods is that people don’t always evacuate when told to. But by trying to survive, be warned, you will be putting yourself and rescuers in danger.

Avoid flood waters when possible

The best thing to do is avoid all floodwaters if you can — or as the National Weather Service’s grim phrase urges: “Turn around and don’t drown.” It only takes six inches of fast-moving water to knock you off your feet, so unless you’re told to evacuate, staying where you are is usually the safest option. (Flash floods usually pass quickly.)

The immediate danger of entering floodwaters is drowning, but you may also be exposed to various damages floating around the water, such as human, animal and industrial waste; Physical objects such as cars, wood and other debris; Stray animals such as rodents and snakes; And downed power lines.

If you are caught in your car

Sometimes flash floods happen when you are outdoors, and you may suddenly find yourself in a life-threatening situation. Nearly half of flash flood deaths are vehicle-related, which is why you should never ignore barriers. “Don’t drive onto a flooded street,” Ms. Munger said. “There’s really no better advice.”

Not only is it difficult to measure water depth and road conditions, but only 12 inches of water can float your car and 18 inches can hold an SUV or pickup truck. “Everyone tends to underestimate the power of water,” Ms. Munger said. “It takes very little current to cause chaos.”

However, if your car is submerged in floodwaters, you should first open your windows, says Lynn Burchell, an emergency medical worker, rescue swimmer and founder of Wimberley Rescue Training. If they don’t budge, he recommended breaking the glass using an escape tool (like the one in this Wirecutter guide, which you can store in your glove compartment) or using the metal post of your headrest as a battering ram. It’s important to open the windows, Burchell said, because “if the water continues to rise, that car will fill up and become more of a rock instead of floating downstream.”

Then, unbuckle your seatbelt and hold it as you climb onto the roof and call 911, Mr. Burchell advised. Do your best to stay with the vehicle until help arrives. Lie on the roof to maintain stability, and do not tie yourself to the car in case it overturns.

During his 32-year career, Mr Burchell has found that people who stay with their cars live at much higher rates than those who leave them, simply because it is easier for emergency services to detect a vehicle than a person. “I really never recommend leaving the car,” he said. To make yourself more visible, you can also turn on your hazard lights, activate your car alarm using your key fob, and if possible, honk your horn.

If you are walking, hiking or camping

If you’re hit by a flash flood while you’re on foot, run perpendicular to the water and “get to the highest point you can,” Munger said, whether that means heading to the nearest building and racing up a flight of stairs and climbing a building. A tree or climbing on a truck. The larger and heavier the object is, the better, she said, because it will be less likely to float away.

If you are swept away, do not try to stand up, as you may risk getting your foot caught in the drain, fence or other object. Instead, Ms Munger advised, swim perpendicular to the current, as you would with the tide, until you reach safety. Since you’ll be struggling against streams of water, debris and current, I’m warned that this is very difficult, even for strong swimmers. “People need to realize that most people who lose their feet in flash floods never get out,” she said.

As for camping or hiking, Ms. Munger advised researching the area’s weather patterns and forecasts before setting out. If there is a rainstorm upstream at your destination, I suggested camping above any rivers, rather than alongside them. If water starts to rise where you are, move immediately to higher ground.

If you are on a subway or subway

Ms Munger said the subway was “the last place you want to be” during a flash flood. “Because eventually, if the storm drains get full, there’s nowhere else for the water to go.” In other words, your best defense is to avoid it altogether.

If you find yourself underground during a flood, Ms Munger urged you to get out of the station as quickly as possible – even if it means forcing your way up flooded stairs. If you’re on a stuck train, don’t leave it until you’re told to do so, said Eugene Resnick, a spokesman for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Take flash floods seriously

While some of these steps may seem inconvenient, the reality is that following them could save your life. “You never want to be in a situation where you look back, or others look back and say, ‘Why didn’t you heed a simple piece of advice?’” Dr. Markinson said.

Or as Mrs. Munger said: “It will be more annoying and more tragic when you don’t come home.”

Susan Shine is a freelance journalist and future New York Times fellow based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Corrected on

September 13, 2021


An earlier version of this article misstated the title of Sabine Marks. She is a senior trainer at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, not a research director.

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