Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Be on alert for potential flooding on national forest system lands

The U.S. Forest Service is alerting the public that record snow pack and rain in Montana, Idaho and portions of North and South Dakota has increased the potential for flooding in all of the national forests and grasslands in the region.

“We want people to know that with wet conditions in many parts of the region to be prepared in the event their plans have to suddenly change due to the weather,” said Elizabeth Slown, spokesperson for the Northern Region of the Forest Service.

Snow pack depths and moisture content are well above average in numerous river systems.  High temperatures or rain at high elevations could cause the snow pack to melt at high rates. These events coupled with streams already at high spring runoff rates have already led to flooding in some areas and could lead to many other areas.

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States.  Flood effects can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins and multiple states. However, all floods are not alike.

Some floods develop slowly, sometimes over a period of days. But flash floods can develop quickly and without any visible signs of rain. Flash floods often have a dangerous wall of roaring water that carries rocks, mud, and other debris and can sweep away most things in its path.

Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live, but especially if you live in a low-lying area near rivers, streams or downstream from an engineered or maintained earthen dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds, or low-lying grounds that appear harmless in dry weather can flood.  Forest officials are asking the public to consider several safety factors if flooding occurs in your area.

Monitor the radio, television and internet for information. Emergency warning weather radio receivers are available at stores that sell electronic equipment.

Have an evacuation route and alternative routes selected ahead of time.

Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.  Do not camp in gullies or low areas that could be susceptible to flash flooding.

Carefully assess steam crossings before you attempt to cross a stream in a vehicle, on horseback, or on foot.  Two feet of flowing water can sweep away vehicles.

Roads and bridges open to public travel may become impassable during flood conditions and sections may be undercut or the surface washed out.

Forecasts, flood potential and weather advisories can be found on the following websites: National Weather Service: and Western U.S.:

For more information on local conditions, please contact your nearest national forest or grassland.

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