Special to the Chickasaw Journal
HOUSTON – Forest officials have issued a flash flood bulletin for neighboring communities and people who camp outdoors or use the Tombigbee National Forest.
Chickasaw County residents and users of the forest north of town are reminded that a flash flood is a serious weather event and rising flood water is extremely dangerous. Any intense, heavy rain that falls in a short amount of time can create flash flood and it can happen any time of the year.
“Many of our neighbors like to camp overnight in the forest,” explained Caren Briscoe, District Ranger, Tombigbee National Forest. “Sometimes visitors camp in low-lying areas because they spent the day along a stream or river. But a sudden rush of water toward their camp site would put them in immediate danger.”
During a flash flood, rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. The velocity of a flood surge can easily roll vehicles, tear out trees, destroy bridges and undermine roads. A low-lying area can become a death trap in a matter of minutes.
“There is very little time to react,” said Briscoe. “Forest visitors need to be more conscious about sudden storms. Families should discuss how they would alert each other and get to safety if rushing water arrives.”
Weather experts say the best defense is to be weather-ready before a storm hits.
Forest officials are asking neighbors to check the National Weather Service forecast before they leave home, and to be alert for changing weather conditions while visiting the forest. Devices like a weather radio, a terrestrial radio, a smart-phone app or a cell phone mobile alert can help visitors stay tuned-in before and during their outdoor activities.
Statistics show that most flash floods in the U.S. occur after dark, when campers are asleep.
According to the Forest Service, national forests are popular places to sleep under the stars. “People from nearby communities come camping all year,” said Briscoe. “They need to be weather-ready every time they visit the forest. Outdoor safety isn’t something to brush off or take lightly.”
As with all remote and rural locations in the United States, city sirens don’t exist out in nature. Forest rangers always remind visitors, “Your safety is your own responsibility every time you leave home and head outdoors, no matter where you go.”