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Storms bring sudden dangers of flash floods

It’s that time of year again when dark storms start rolling across the sky. Lightning strikes and thunder echoes across the desert floor. It’s majestic and beautiful in a way that only nature can provide. However, summer storms can be dangerous, and a powerful energy can become a deadly force. Ironically, many people not from the desert, not native to Southern Nevada, will not think twice about the rain storms. The fallacy being that Nevada is a desert, it doesn’t rain here, and when it does, it’s never for than a few minutes.

Although that may be true for most of the occasional showers we see in Southern Nevada, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Flash-flood warnings and cautions are more present in the summer months, so here are a few tips to remember to keep you safe during a storm.

Driving in the rain increases your likelihood of being involved in an accident. When it rains, the oil on the asphalt is displaced by the rainwater and sits on top of it. This displacement of the oil and water on the streets is what makes your car or truck slip and slide all over the road when you are forced to make quick stops, or when you accelerate through a turn. Remember to take extra caution while driving in the rain. Slow down an extra 5-10 mph from the posted speed limit.

You should have fully operational wiper blades and headlights. Turn your headlights on, even during the day, to increase your visibility as a driver and to make yourself more visible to other drivers and pedestrians.

Avoid driving through any rising floodwaters. Slow down and take an extra five minutes to get where you are going. That could be the difference between life and death.

Avoid drainage ditches. In Boulder City, we have had a number of different incidents with pedestrians getting caught in the drainage ditch as swift water flows through it during or after a rainy day. In the past two years, citizens have been rescued by other citizens as they are being swept away by the flowing waters in the drainage ditch. It is important to remember to stay out of the drainage ditch. The waters that are flowing through them are rapid and could carry you away with no problem. You will be tossed and turned, losing all ability to control where you are going.

Typically at the end of all drainage ditches is a collection of boulders and rocks that will knock you unconscious. You could potentially drown in the raging waters.

In Boulder City, the drainage ditches most accessible and dangerous are found along Buchanan Avenue to the south, Georgia Avenue to the west and Nevada Highway to the east. Please do not test your luck with these rapid waters: You can and will be carried away in a flash flood.

Being outside during the thunderstorms presents its own dangers. Summertime is an excellent time to get outdoors and explore the desert with hiking and dirt biking. As the storm clouds start to roll in, it’s important to remember the dangers that are associated with being stranded in the desert as the rain starts to fall.

Lightning is a serious threat, too. Avoid being out in the open during lightning storms.

Lightning is electricity radiating through the sky, and it will ground through its nearest conductor. Avoid being under trees or tall posts such as power lines. If you are out in the open when a desert thunderstorm hits, the most appropriate way to avoid lightning would be to lay flat on the ground and allow for the storm to pass.

Be mindful of flash floods in the desert. The desert mountains drain water down to the basin, collecting with other rushing water making its way down hills. Avoid natural wash areas that lead to a lake or river. This is a likely spot where water will come rushing through.

As the water rushes down, it begins to collect dirt and rocks that are light enough to be swept away. These can be just as dangerous as the water.

Take notice of the weather before you plan any outdoor adventures. As you see clouds rolling in, or as you hear thunder in the distance, be mindful of the potential dangers of flash floods. If you take an extra few minutes to find safe alternative ways home to avoid flash floods you can increase your probability of staying safe through the storm.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at the firehouse at 293-9228. Thanks, and have a wonderful weekend.

Brian Shea is a Boulder City paramedic/firefighter. If you have further questions about this or any fire safety issue, contact the Boulder City Fire Department at 293-9228.

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