Streams and rivers in Florida can flood, especially after short periods of intense rainfall. Streams that you could easily cross in the morning can swell to the point of being impassable by noon. A peaceful riverside campsite can become dangerous overnight.

Flash floods/floods are the #1 cause of deaths associated with thunderstorms…average of 107 fatalities nationwide each year

  • Most fatalities occur at night.
  • Nearly half of fatalities are vehicle related
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including sport utility vehicles and pickups
  • Six inches of fast moving water can knock you off your feet

The National Weather Service will issue a Flash Flood Watch when heavy rains may result in flash flooding in a specific area. In this case you should be alert and prepare for the possibility of a flood emergency which will require immediate action. A Flash Flood Warning will be issued when flash flooding is occurring or is imminent in a specified area. If your locale is placed under a warning, you should move to safe ground immediately.

Watch for the following signs: 

  • Unusually hard rain over several hours
  • Steady substantial rain over several days
  • A weather report of flooding
  • Water rising rapidly in streams and rivers

When hiking, follow these steps:

  • Wait for everyone in the crew to arrive at stream, and make a determination to cross. 
  • Do not walk through a flowing stream on foot where water is above your ankles. 
  • When walking through or on logs over a stream, loosen pack buckles so if you fall you can easily get away from your pack and it will not drag you under.
  • Wait for everyone to cross before continuing (in case the last person needs assistance).
Flood Safety Tips:
  • Flooded streams and rivers are not safe for recreational boating. Many canoeists and kayakers have been rescued from dangerous rapids in flood-swollen streams and rivers.
  • Never set up a tent or camper on the bank of a river or stream - a flash flood can catch you while you're asleep. It is best to allow some distance between the campsite and water so if a flash flood does occur, you will have more time to move to higher ground. Flash floods can strike with little or no advance warning. Distant rain may be channeled into gullies and ravines, turning a quiet stream into a rampaging torrent in minutes.
  • Don't walk through flooded areas. As little as six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream where water is above your ankles. Flooded creeks and streams are unpredictable. Even though the surface water may be smooth the water is moving very fast.
  • Don't drive through a flooded area. The depth of water is not always obvious. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way, or just simply wait it out on higher ground. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else.
  • If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.
  • Never let children play near creeks or storm drains when the water is rising or high. Swimming skills have nothing to do with surviving a flooded creek or stream. 
  • Stay away from downed power fines and electrical wires. Electrocution is another major source of deaths in floods. Electric current passes easily through water.
  • Look out for animals - especially snakes. Animals lose their homes in floods, too.
  • Don't try to swim to safety; wait for rescuers to come to you.
  • If outdoors, climb to high ground and stay there.
  • Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding.