Beware Flash Floods

Turn Around
Just a trickle now but a wall of water is coming!

Four wheelers who drive throughout the desert southwest are quite accustomed to tough conditions. Not just terrain, either: The heat can be brutal. Encountering a flash flood is probably the last thing on your mind. But it can happen, and the results can be tragic.

A deadly flood in Zion National Park, Utah, last month is a sobering reminder of that hazard. The flood, which tore through Keyhole Canyon, claimed the lives of seven. Granted, those individuals were on foot, but flash floods affect vehicles, too, even 4,000 – 5,000 lb. four wheelers.

Forecasters are saying that the El Niño phenomenon will be particularly strong this winter. That heightens the chance for moisture throughout the West, including the desert areas.

You’re probably thinking: “A flash flood in a desert? C’mon, Tom!” Yes, they are possible, in the right areas. But also in mountainous terrain, which should be apparent.

Four wheelers, accustomed to driving in tough conditions, figure they can just plow through that water. Not a chance. Don’t even think about it. Water only two feet deep can float your vehicle. Your wheels may still be touching, but you won’t have good traction.

Be careful while hiking, too. Six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet. If you can’t wade through, don’t try driving through. Remember this maxim:

Turn Around
(Image courtesy of US Forest Service)

Turn Around. Don’t Drown.

Of course, flash floods aren’t confined to remote areas. Urban communities across the country suffer floods frequently. One big difference off road is that the threat isn’t always very apparent.

You could be camping, driving or hiking on a bright sunny day. Unbeknownst to you, a storm is raging in the mountains several miles away. Eventually a trickle shows up on that nearby wash. You think nothing of it. Minutes later, the water is cascading down, getting deeper by the moment. You may have only minutes to find an escape route.

This is why I always recommend moving out when water appears in a wash or a nearby stream. That stream could gain new life and momentum. Soon, a flood is roaring down on you.

Video of a flash flood

As with any trip, preparation helps you avoid disaster. Check the weather forecast before and, if possible, during your trip. If the park has a website and Facebook page, monitor those, too. Zion National Park posts weather advisories on its Facebook page when appropriate.

Pack a weather radio and, if you’re a ham radio operator, your radio gear. Cell phones are OK, but coverage is spotty in the wild. Consider buying a satellite phone. You can learn more about communications options in Communications equipment is critical for off-road driving.

It’s also good to know the various warnings that the weather service issues, including flood advisory and flash flood warning. Read more about those here .

If near a wash, stream or river, always take a moment to plan an escape route. Don’t wait for disaster to strike. You won’t be able to think clearly, and you may end up downstream. If a trickle of water appears, move to higher ground. That might mean simply climbing up on a rock or hiking away. Leave your vehicle and your gear. Those can be replaced.

Rapidly changing weather is nothing new to seasoned 4WD enthusiasts. Flash flooding in normally dry areas may be hard to imagine, but it does happen. Don’t try to fight it. Odds are the water will win, which means you’ll lose.


Related Articles from Badlands Off-road Adventures

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Upcoming Events

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Mojave Lower Desert, CA
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Summary of upcoming events.
The 2016 schedule of events (as we know it today) has been populated on the web site. Since we are planning these events anywhere from 5 months to 17 months in advance, there are times when we have to make some adjustments.

New for 2016 is a Women-Only Getting Started Clinic in February.
We are bringing back The Wilderness First Aid Clinic (WFA). This is a 2 days class that will be held at Hungry Valley SVRA.

We cancelled the October trip to Death Valley due to flash floods throughout the park.

"Death Valley has received over one year's worth of rain over the past 14 days. All roads within the park except CA 190 and NV 374 are closed. Over 1,000 miles of road are closed. Millions of dollars in flood damage will take months to repair."
- Death Valley Face book.

And it is not too early to sign up for the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad Adventure just after Thanksgiving.

In early November, We will be attending SEMA again in Vegas.

T&T Rail Road Adventure in November

Death Valley

Our goal is to cross through Johnson Valley, enjoying what it has to offer, and making our way North along the old Tonopah & Tidewater (T&T) Rail Road bed to the Rasor OHV, Afton Canyon and the western edge of the Mojave Preserve. On the way we will skirt the Rodman Mountain Wilderness and cross I-40. This adventure is 2 days of scenic, historical, light wheeling and a night of primitive camping under the stars.
Check out the details and sign up on the website: http://www.4x4training.com/Adventures/TTRailroad.html

You can register directly at http://www.4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#TTRailroad

Winch Recovery Bandana & Winching DVD

Winching Recover Bandana
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We have our new stock with many new colors (Red, Orange, Green, and Blue) on hand. The Bandana is packed full of useful information and is a quick reference in the field when no DVD player is available."

The Bandana layout follows the “Vehicle Recovery Plan” with pathways to more detail. A unique section of the Bandana, gives the steps for a “Winch Rigging Check: Walk through” so that you verify every element of the rigging before you commit to the pull. Stuff this in your recovery kit and you will always be ready!

Pick up or order the Winching DVD too! There is no substitute for hands on training. If you can, sign up for one of Badlands Off-Road Adventure’s Winching Clinics.

Warning – the Bandana and DVD are not a substitute for proper training and use of quality equipment that is used within the bounds of their safe working load. We advise you to use the information provided in both the Winching Recovery Bandana and the "Basic to Advanced Winching and Recovery DVD" at your own risk. We cannot control the quality and specifications of the equipment used and the methods actually employed.

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Order a Basic to Advanced Winching & Recovery DVD too!

Winch DVD
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I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President
Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.

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Want To Use This Article In Your Magazine, E-Zine, Club Newsletter Or Web Site? You are welcome to use it anytime, just be sure to include the following author/copyright information: Tom Severin, 4x4 Coach, teaches 4WD owners how to confidently and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit www.4x4training.com to develop or improve your driving skill.

Copyright 2015, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.

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