Mortality from flash floods: a review of national weather service reports, 1969-81.
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Mortality from flash floods: a review of national weather service reports, 1969-81.

  • Published Date:

    1983 Nov-Dec

  • Source:
    Public Health Rep. 98(6):584-588
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-754.31 KB]

  • Alternative Title:
    Public Health Rep
  • Description:
    Of all weather-related disasters that occur in the United States, floods are the main cause of death, and most flood-related deaths are attributed to flash floods. Whenever a weather-related disaster involves 30 or more deaths or more than $100 million in property damage, the National Weather Service (NWS) forms a survey team to investigate the disaster and write a report of findings. All NWS survey reports on flash floods issued during 1969-81 were reviewed to determine the mortality resulting from such floods, the effect of warnings on mortality, and the circumstances contributing to death. A total of 1,185 deaths were associated with 32 flash floods, an average of 37 deaths per flash flood. The highest average number of deaths per event was associated with the four flash floods in which dams broke after heavy rains. Although there were 18 flash floods in 1977-81 and only 14 in 1969-76, the number of deaths was 2 1/2 times greater during the earlier period. More than twice as many deaths were associated with flash floods for which the survey team considered the warnings inadequate than with those with warnings considered adequate. Ninety-three percent of the deaths were due to drowning and 42 percent of these drownings were car related. The other drownings occurred in homes, at campsites, or when persons were crossing bridges and streams. The need for monitoring dams during periods of heavy rainfall is highlighted.
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