Camping and Flash Flooding/ Would You Be Prepared?


According to the National Weather Service, the definition of a flash flood is “Flooding that begins within 6 hours, and often within 3 hours of the heavy rainfall (or other cause).” Also, according to the National Weather Service, the average yearly flash flood/flood deaths are about 82. In 2015 that number skyrocketed to 176. In 2016, 140 deaths occurred. Click the link below for the National Weather Service 2015 flood death by state chart.

Flash flooding/flooding is something everyone should take extremely serious. Since this is an RV site, I will concentrate on flash flooding/flooding as it pertains to RV’ers. Even if you are a part time RV’er who still resides in a sticks and bricks, you should still take flash flooding serious.

Amarillo Flood 5

Flash flooding/flooding can happen just about anywhere that it rains. Some campgrounds/campsites are more prone to it such as low lying sites, sites within a canyon, sites at the base of a mountain, or oceanfront/lakefront campsites. You don’t necessarily have to be in a campground to encounter a flooding problem. You might be in your RV on the way to your home or campground.

Amarillo Flood

What can you do to make your camping outing safe? There are definitely some things to both look for and keep an eye on or watch out for whether you are full timing or on a family vacation. Let’s take a look at a few different scenarios and some things to do and not to do.

Amarillo Flood

The very first thing I would suggest before you even leave your house or campground is to make sure you have at least one (I recommend several later in this post) weather apps and radar apps. Always check the weather of the path you are going to drive and your destination to see if the weather will even be an issue. Now you are prepared for that drive to your home or campground.

Amarillo flood 4

Although it’s not foolproof, it will give you a general idea of what you will be seeing on the road. If all is sunny and clear, then rock on!!! If you see any kind of possible weather in your path it is a good time to at least start thinking of possible scenarios you might run into. Most times it will just be rain and all you need to do is make sure you have good wiper blades and your wiper system is in good working order.

So you see a few rain clouds on the radar and decide that it will be a passing storm and there is nothing but sunshine to follow the rain. You decide the family trip is on!!!

Remember Those Apps?

As you are driving the rain is getting heavier and the alerts on your phone (remember the apps I told you to install on your phone?) are going off. You start thinking that this may be a little more serious than you thought. This would be a good time to bring up some important tips.

Educate Yourself and Pay Attention

Flash flooding can occur away from the area you are currently in. The rain can be pouring down several miles away from you but located on higher ground. This is more common if you are driving in hilly terrain. Rain waters will seek lower lying areas via any channels, gullies, ravines, or streams. If you are on the lower end of that you are now in a flash flood with no rain by you at all!!!

Driving At Night?

If you are driving at night, try and get to a safe location on high ground. Driving at night makes it extremely difficult to see especially during a storm.

Turn Around/Don’t Drown

If you come across a flooded road, do not try and drive through it. There is no way to tell how deep that water really is. Definitely, don’t get out of your vehicle to walk into it to find the depth. 6 inches of flowing water is enough to knock a person down. With only a foot of flowing water, it is possible to sweep your vehicle away!!!

If you encounter a flooded road it is best (if you can do safely) to turn around and go back.

So those are a few tips if you are on the road. What if you are already at an RV park or campground? Here are some tips I have come up with for this scenario.

Educate Yourself and Pay Attention

Sound familiar? It should. It was the first tip under the driving scenario. Being educated on what to do, being aware of your surroundings, and paying attention to weather apps, weather warnings, radar apps, and the sky above are some of the most important things you can do. You should now become familiar with the area you are camping in. If you are not, ask while checking in. See if they have had problems in the past. Maybe they have a building or location on sight that is at a higher elevation or know of one close by you can go to in an emergency. If you come up with a plan before an event happens, you will be much calmer if you have to execute it. Remaining calm during an emergency is very important.

Do Not Ever Ignore Warnings

Do not ever ignore warnings or advice from weather professionals to evacuate an area. If they are wrong, it was an inconvenience. If they were right, it could save your life!!!

What If You’re Near A Stream, Lake, or Ocean?

If you are camping near a stream, lake, or ocean and a weather warning comes out, move. If you have not arrived at your site yet and there are warnings for that area for that day, call the campground and explain to them you are going to wait until the weather system passes and stay home an extra night until the storm passes. If you are already on the road, find a place to park yourself on higher ground.

Pay Attention To Signs

Not always but sometimes campgrounds and popular hiking spots will post signs stating you are in a high-risk area for flooding. I have even seen signs with measurement increments on them. Definitely, something to keep in mind if a warning comes out.

Nighttime Is Particularly Dangerous

A lot of the time flash flooding will occur while you are sleeping. If you wake up in the middle of the night and see the water level is rising in the campground, get out of your RV!!! Grab your go bag and get to higher ground immediately. You will know where to go because you read the first paragraph of these campground tips and educated yourself before this happened…lol. Remember, your RV and belongings can be replaced. If you are not in a campground and you are camping in a canyon climb to higher ground holding onto anything sturdy you can find until help arrives.

Being Informed Is Key

These are just a few things you can do to prepare for flooding while RV’ing or driving. I want to stress that your best defense against a flash flood/flooding disaster while you are driving or camping is advanced knowledge. Knowing what to do if you are caught in a flash flood/flood ahead of time can literally be the difference between life and death.

A few terms you should familiarize yourself with are, advisory, watch, and warning.


An advisory is issued by weather personnel when a weather event is happening but it is only at a lower level of intensity and can be dealt with by taking a few precautionary measures.

A Watch

A watch is issued by weather personnel when the weather conditions have become more serious and dangerous but the exact area of impact is not known. This would be a good time to start monitoring your weather apps and radar.

A Warning

A warning is issued by weather personnel when the storm has kicked into high gear. This is a serious alert and if you are in the path of this weather occurrence, you should listen to the weather professional’s advice and enact your evacuation plan if advised to do so. NEVER ignore this level of alert!!!

Here Are A Few Of My Favorite Apps That I Use To Help Me Follow The Weather

The Weather Channel
Weather Underground
My Radar
NOAA Weather Radar

I also always find a local station for whatever area I am staying in and load their app.

A few good websites you can go to for more information on flash flooding/flooding are:

National Weather Service

Wikipedia- Flash Floods

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration-Dangers Of Flooding

I hope you take the weather seriously. Mother Nature can be very cruel at times. You can fight back by arming yourself with knowledge and by taking steps to be prepared.

Next week I will put up part 2 of this weather series. Part 2 will be on thunderstorms, lightning, hail, and tornados.

Did I miss any good tips? If so, please share them in the comments. Let’s keep everyone safe!!!

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