Ways to prepare for the unpredictability of weather in southern Utah – St. George News
The first Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to History.com. This tradition has its roots in the ancient Christian celebration of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for the winter. The candles represented the length and cold of winter.
Kirsten Maltese, a community preparedness officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the St. George News that early spring may bring challenges amidst its beauty.
“We know that spring rains can bring the best conditions, beautiful morning hikes and trips to gorgeous national parks, but they can also raise the possibility of flooding,” Kirsten Maltese, FEMA Community Preparedness Officer for St. George, said. News. “Warmer temperatures can also reduce the moisture content of our soils, making our region more vulnerable to wildfires.”
In the western United States, natural disasters such as wildfires, floods, and other hazards are becoming more frequent and severe. The Maltese stress the importance of preparedness, urging people to check the weather forecast before going out and to take precautions before and during disasters. She added that one should also have extra shoes and jackets when travelling.
Recent wildfires in the West often leave behind areas of burned scars, where the landscape has changed and become more vulnerable to flooding. The Maltese language reminds people to count the three Cs: people, pets and possessions.
“If you are walking or driving in a flooded area, we always remind you to ‘turn around and don’t drown.’ “Never drive or walk in flooded areas,” Malti said. “Just six inches of water can sweep you away,” Malti said. A foot of water can also wash your car away.”
She added that floodwaters can carry germs and large objects such as trees. Malti said it was necessary to prevent children or pets from walking or playing in flooded waters. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge water.
In southern Utah, flash floods can occur quickly. Maltese advises that if you are stuck outside in a storm shelter immediately, or if you are driving, stop or go inside the establishment to wait. Also, if necessary, move to higher ground or return home if it is safe to travel.
Malti suggests subscribing to local warning systems, such as the NOAA’s Emergency Alert and Weather Radio System, to get emergency alerts. She also said to watch for potential signs such as heavy rain. It is helpful to learn and practice evacuation methods, shelter plans, and flash flood response. Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center portal for information.
“The FEMA app on the Google Play Store is completely free, and allows people to download up to five locations so they can get alerts and warnings from those areas; you can get it for your city to check,” Malti said. “If you’re traveling to Utah , visiting parks, enjoying ATVs or anything else, you can also get alerts and warnings specific to that area.”
While some flooding develops over time, flash flooding can occur within minutes after the start of a rainstorm, Malti said. Even areas not traditionally prone to flooding are at risk.
According to FloodSmart, floods are the most common and costliest natural hazard in the country. Whether caused by heavy rain, thunderstorms or tropical storms, flooding can be devastating.
The site also provided the following tips:
- Gather supplies in case of a storm, reinforce your home against damage and review your insurance coverage.
- Get Flood Insurance It usually takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to take effect, so get your policy now.
- Flood insurance only covers flood damage; Most standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage. Affordable flood insurance. The average flood policy costs about $600 per year, and rates start at just $129 per year for homes located in moderate to low-risk areas.
- Planning evacuation routes. Keep important papers in a safe, waterproof place. Conduct a home inventory; Detail and take photos of the property.
Visitors to Zion National Park are reminded on its website to “plan and prepare.” Narrows is vulnerable to flash floods. The website states that flash floods are often caused by storms miles away and can be life-threatening. Hikers should check the weather and watch for flash flood warnings before their trip. If bad weather is forecast, slot canyons should be avoided.
“Much of the surrounding area is bare rock that does not absorb water,” the website says. “During storms, water runoff is quickly directed into the gorge. The water level rises almost instantly during a flash flood – within seconds or minutes. Flash floods are common in Zion and hikers have been stranded, injured and even killed by venturing into the narrow, flood-prone canyons.
The park suggests hikers watch for potential warning signs of flash flooding, including deteriorating weather conditions, cloud cover or thunder, sudden changes in water clarity, floating debris, and increased sound of water crashing into the valley. If any of these signs are noticed, the website states that hikers should immediately seek higher ground because “even climbing a few feet could save your life.”
To see the current flow of the Virgin River, click here. You can find flash flood warnings issued by the National Weather Service here and weather forecasts here.
Maltese is also the Youth and Teen Outreach Program Manager for FEMA Region 8 and helps coordinate high school outreach programs. District 8 covers Utah, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and 29 federally recognized Native American tribes.
She was excited to add that her team was part of a game development team that created and released a new game for high school students. It’s a free resource to teach high school students about disaster decision making.
“The app is a great resource for teaching high school students about this. It’s completely free. All you need is a computer and access to the Internet. And you can play now; it’s at fema.gov/disaster,” Malti said.
Additional preparedness tips can also be found here, she said.