Penn State Extension: After The Flood, No Time For A Stream Study!

Recent flooding in Central Pennsylvania has brought a lot of attention to the various safety issues associated with flood waters. Even with all the warnings issued, it’s not uncommon to see images of children and families wading in flood waters, exploring flooded creeks and streams, and taking chances with their health and safety.
           Parents, educators, and youth program volunteers should all be aware of the many risks associated with these flood waters and help share these messages in their communities.
            During floods, water not only moves in greater volumes than what is typical; it is also flowing at faster rates of speed than normal. The power of water is often underestimated, which is why we hear so many stories of people trying to drive through flooded streets and getting swept into the moving water instead. When walking, just six inches of water can sweep you off your feet. This is especially dangerous for children. 
            The scenes created when a  flood takes place, particularly when the flood is of the magnitude we experienced this year, can be very attractive to professional and amateur photographers, as well as those who just want to see what’s going on. The power of the water can also cause mudslides and stream bank failure to occur, so standing anywhere near moving flood waters is dangerous place to be.        
            Those waters may also rise faster than you could ever imagine, from just a few inches to many feet in less than an hour, leaving you with few paths of escape. It is best to just stay away altogether.
            Even after the floodwaters start to recede, there are many hidden dangers lurking in streams and creeks. Because the waters are thick with mud, it is hard to see what you might encounter:
-- Flooding may have caused large pits and crevices to form along the stream bottom;
-- Broken glass and sharp metal objects that were washed form roads, fields, and damaged buildings are often being carried downstream;
-- Chemical containers may have been overturned in high floodwaters, wastewater treatment facilities may have overflowed, and many other hazardous substances are likely contaminating the water after a flood; and 
-- Large objects like railroad ties, tree limbs, propane tanks, and even parts of homes can be tumbling beneath the water.
Until the waters are running clear again and stream banks have had time to dry out, this is no time for exploring your local stream!
            For more information and educational resources:
-- Informational Booklet: Floods the Awesome Power (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) 
-- K-2 Lesson Plan: Learn Flood Safety (American Red Cross) 

(Written By: Jennifer Fetter, Watershed Youth Development, Educator Penn State Extension, and reprinted from the Watershed Winds Newsletter)


Go To Preceding Article     Go To Next Article

Return to This PA Environment Digest's Main Page