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Flash Flooding Hazards for Hikers and Boaters

Flash Flooding Hazards for Hikers and Boaters
July 29
11:52 2016

Flash flooding can be hazardous whether you are hiking, camping or boating and happens most often when the monsoons produce a downpour of rain in a short period of time.

Pay careful attention to the weather in your area and stay out of flood prone areas. Rain miles away can accumulate and rush down a previously dry wash bringing a wall of water and debris crashing down on you, preventing your escape from steep-walled canyons. Hiking strategies in these areas should include having multiple immediate escape routes. When you hear the roar of water coming toward you, you may have only moments to act. If your boat or campsite is in the path of a flash flood, the results can be devastating.

In 1997, a flash flood washed away a dozen hikers in the always popular Antelope Canyon, killing eleven of the twelve. Some of those bodies were never recovered from sand and silt washed down stream to Lake Powell. While the area where they were hiking only received a trace amount of rain, a thunderstorm miles away put a great quantity of water onto rock surfaces that accumulated and ran downstream for miles through Antelope Canyon to the steep walled portion of the canyon. The hikers were not able to escape the canyon when the flash flood arrived without warning. The tour guide that survived was rescued from the bottom of the canyon clinging to a rock.

Last summer, a family from Utah had a harrowing experience at Crystal Springs Canyon on Lake Powell. The beach where the family was camping and had anchored their boats was suddenly inundated by a flash flood taking their boats from the shore and pulling them under a just-created waterfall. Boulders washed by the flood waters hit and sunk one boat. The family was able to stay on what was left of the beach until flood waters receded. Boater will sometimes seek safety in the backs of canyons on the lake, only to discover the danger of flash floods coming into the lake at those exact locations.

Boaters need to be aware of where water carrying large debris may come into the canyons they are boating.

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