Flash Flood

Steve's picture

You have to admit that there is something special about the term ‘Flash Flood’.  Think about it. There are no ‘flash hurricanes’, no  ‘flash tornadoes’, nary one ‘flash earthquake’ that I’ve heard of.  It seems that only floods flash.

Perhaps flash floods are special because they have no regional bias. Hurricanes generally confine themselves to Gulf and Southern States.  Tornadoes are most comfortable in the mid-west.  Earthquakes?, the Pacific Coast bears the bulk of these. But where is flash flood’s home turf?  I can’t name a state where these don’t threaten. From Allentown (PA) to Arrowsic (ME), from Zanesville (OH) to Zena (OK) flash floods have your number.

Let’s run a flash flood simulation for that blue sky and palm-tree-boasting city, Los Angeles.   Suppose that a huge storm comes down from Alaska and stalls over the San Gabriel Mountains north of town.  For five hours it drops rain at an incredible 1 meter per hour.  A one in a 1000 year storm perhaps, but in Los Angeles, they think big.  What is your wager that the city’s concrete-lined river channels could hold the flow? A fool's bet I'm afraid, Mother Nature has stacked the deck.

I’m told that the same property insurance policy that covers ‘plain jane’ floods also covers ones that flash.  Still, if I lived in a flood zone, I’m not sure that information would help me sleep better.

Steven N. Ward  Santa Cruz

Risk Alert