We are no stranger to flash floods, but usually they involve a rise in water that happens over the period of several minutes -- leaving you enough time to get out. Flood deaths here typically happen when people try to drive through moving water. In Arizona two days ago, the mountainous topography funneled water from a thunderstorm into a focused channel, sending a 4 foot wall of muddy, debris-filled water down a narrow canyon and into a swimming hole, killing 9 people within seconds, leaving them absolutely no time to escape. It was no fault of their own. There was no warning. The storm producing the rain was a full 8 miles away from the swimming hole -- probably out of range from hearing any thunder. Under sunshine-filled skies, swimmers had no idea what was racing their way.
The violent nature of this flooding tragedy -- literally washing people away -- isn't the type we ever see in Houston due to our flat ground, but it is a reminder to be weather aware whenever heavy rain hits because we are no strangers to flooding. In fact, between the Tax Day and Memorial Day floods of recent years, 15 died here locally. This wasn't from people who were standing around getting washed away, but from folks trying to drive through flood waters. Turn around, don't drown.
VIDEO: 9 Dead, 1 Still Missing in Arizona Flash Flood pic.twitter.com/X8pMKhwflk— azcentral (@azcentral) July 18, 2017
Our closest equivalent in the Houston area to, "instantaneous" tragedy involving water may be our local rip current danger, which is common in the Gulf. Surf fishermen and weak swimmers are the most likely to be swept away when this force is present. Be sure to research local currents before you enter the water and avoid wading and swimming in areas surrounding the San Luis pass.