Alaska offers more natural beauty and variety than almost any other U.S. state. But, as with all good things, we must endure a few risks at the hand of Mother Nature.
The U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) reports that Alaska’s primary natural hazards include earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, landslides, wildfires and — of course — flooding.
During the summer, the threat of flooding increases all across Alaska. In Anchorage, we experience periodic floods during the summer months, depending on the weather patterns and other climate-related factors.
To help you stay out of the way of Alaska flooding this summer, the attorneys of Kelley & Canterbury LLC have assembled a little flooding guide for you.
What causes summer flooding in Alaska?
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flooding in Alaska occurs as a result of coastal storms, overflowing streams and rivers, and ice/debris jam flooding.
Erosion is another common cause of summer flooding, particularly in areas that have previously burned in a forest fire.
Another cause of flooding — one that can be especially concerning — is a broken dam or levee. Excessive water can go over the top of these structures or, in extreme cases, cause the structure to fail.
In the case of an extreme rain event, excessive rainfall can cause rivers, streams, dams, and levees to overflow. Flooding, in this case, typically begins around six hours after the rain event and may last for hours, days, or weeks.
Finally, a cause of flooding that occurs in Alaska specifically involves lakes that form behind glaciers. When the level of these dammed lakes rises too high, the effect is known as outburst flooding.
Staying Safe from Summer Flooding in Alaska
Flooding in Alaska is unavoidable, but that does not mean you cannot be safe when dealing with these floods. Here are a few tips that can help you this summer:
“Turn Around, Don’t Drown®”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most flood-related drownings occur when motorists drive their vehicles into flooded areas, underestimating the power of the water. The NWS launched the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” campaign to raise awareness of this danger and to remind motorists that it is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.
Flood Watch vs. Flood Warning
Knowing the difference between a flood watch and flood warning can save your life. Flood advisories, watches, warnings, and flash flood warnings are terms the NWS uses to indicate the threat level of flooding. Advisories alert you to be aware of potential problems. Watches indicate that it is time to prepare for a hazardous weather event. Warnings mean “take action,” because a flood is imminent or already occurring.
The NWS site also provides excellent information and instructions for what to do before a flood, during a flood, and after a flood. Knowing your risk, assembling an emergency kit, and creating a communication plan to stay in touch with loved ones are all important preparedness steps.
Stay aware and monitor emergency channels and, most importantly, avoid flood waters at all costs. If your area is under threat of a flood, get to higher ground immediately and obey all evacuation orders.
Know Before You Go
If you plan to venture out in Alaska this summer, check for any potential weather events or threats that you might encounter.
The Alaska Road Weather Information System (RWIS) provides real-time road condition updates, thanks to a network of sensors embedded in roadways and highways throughout the state.
To use the RWIS system, simply click the map for your desired area, such as the Greater Anchorage Area. Once there, click on the map’s blue diamonds for up-to-date information for that location. You will see temperature, humidity, precipitation, and wind speed as well as the current status of the pavement. You can also view live camera feeds, including close-up views of the road surface.
Another great planning resource is the USGS current water data site. Using the interactive Alaska map, you can see live streamflow conditions for every portion of the state, updated at 15- to 60-minute intervals.
Finally, the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) provides a “KNOW B4 U GO” interface, which provides a wealth of information regarding Alaska road conditions. If you do not have access to a computer or the internet, simply dial 511 to speak to an operator and obtain a live update.
At Kelley & Canterbury LLC, we are dedicated to helping our clients overcome personal injuries they suffer as the result of accidents or the negligence of others. Stay safe out there this summer and do not hesitate to call us if you need to speak with an Anchorage personal injury or accident lawyer: 907-276-8185.