National forest officials have issued a flash flood bulletin for neighboring communities and people who camp outdoors. A flash flood is a serious weather event for forest visitors because rising floodwater is extremely dangerous—a sudden surge can claim victims quickly.  Any intense, heavy rain that falls in a short amount of time can create flash flood conditions in a low-lying area, according to the National Weather Service, and it can happen at a moment’s notice any time of the year.

“Many of our neighbors like to camp overnight in the forest,” explained Susan Matthews, Forest Supervisor for the three National Forests in Florida. “Sometimes visitors camp in low-lying areas. During long rain events like we have been experiencing, rivers rise quickly and can cause danger for campers and boaters.”

It is important that you do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The roadbed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.

More Information

During a flash flood, rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. The velocity of a flood surge can easily roll boulders and vehicles, tear out trees, destroy bridges and undermine roads. A low-lying area can become a death trap in a matter of minutes.

Weather experts say the best defense is to be weather-ready before a storm hits.  Forest officials are asking neighbors to check the National Weather Service forecast before they leave home, and to be alert for changing weather conditions while visiting the forest. Devices like a weather radio, a terrestrial radio, a smart-phone app or a cell phone mobile alert can help visitors stay tuned-in before and during outdoor activities.

Statistics show that most flash floods in the U.S. occur after dark, when campers are asleep.

According to the Forest Service, national forests are popular places to sleep under the stars. “People from neighboring communities come camping all year,” Matthews said. “They need to be weather-ready every time they visit the forest. Outdoor safety isn't something to brush off or take lightly.”

“When a flash flood strikes at night, it's nearly impossible to know how deep and fast the water is,” Matthews explained. “It’s noisy. It’s dark. And it’s disorienting to wake up suddenly during a storm. You have to act quickly.”

The National Weather Service is our nation’s exclusive and trusted source for weather forecasts and warnings. Their meteorologists use the most advanced flood warning and forecast system in the world to protect lives and property.  Whenever severe weather is forecasted, forest visitors need to go home early. While outdoors, always be alert for sudden storms and the sound of rushing water.

As with all remote and rural locations in the United States, city sirens don’t exist out in nature. Forest rangers always remind visitors, “Your safety is your own responsibility every time you leave home and head outdoors, no matter where you go.”