Video: Why they call them *Flash* Floods

Dan Robinson

I went chasing in the mountains this afternoon, and ended up in the steep terrain in northeastern Summers County along I-64. A storm fired up on the ridge and remained stationary for about 45 minutes. The core was intense, with blinding downpours and small hail. As I came back down the mountain, I noticed that the creeks were running high and overflowing in some spots. That was no surprise, considering the storm had been sitting up there for almost an hour and not moving at all.

I went another mile or two down the road and looked over at Mill Creek, and it was at normal flow! Crystal clear water just trickling downstream.

I stopped at nearby Green Sulphur Springs, and set the cameras up down in the creek bed at a couple of small scenic waterfalls. I wanted to try and get timelapse shots of the water rising.

Well, I discovered soon that a timelapse was not neccessary! I had to bail quickly to keep one of the cameras from getting swept away.

Video is here:

This was absolutely insane to witness in person! I was able to get ahead of the wavefront a few more times and get some more shots, but these first two were the most dramatic.

A word of caution, I would not try this if you don't know what is coming from upstream! I had been on the mountain and could see that the approaching flooding was not that bad. I also had a quick escape route. I did not expect the water to rise as fast as it did though.

After seeing this I can't imagine a significant flash flood hitting a campground or small town. There is literally NO time to react!!
Good stuff, Dan! That is definitely eye-opening video! I get two very important messages out of this:

1. Just because the water doesn't look deep now doesn't mean it's safe to cross.

2. Just because there are no tornadoes or anvils in the air doesn't mean there isn't real beauty out there to photograph!
Wow, I've always wondered why people just don't get out of the way in a flash flood. That water really came fast. Thanks for posting.

Bill Hark
Some people must just not have the "healthy fear" section of their brains turned on. Flooded roads (and frequent lightning for that matter) just make me nervous, as they should anyone. Six inches of fast moving water are all it takes to sweep you off your feet, and as little as two feet can float a vehicle. It just isn't something to mess around with, yet people do, year in and year out!
I remember seeing a flash flood in New Mexico. This was down by Las Cruces. It had rained dor several hours in the mountains while still clear down on the basin. I watched an Arroyo filled up in about 10 minutes. Clear and hot 30 miles away from any storm and Whammo! The arroyo went from dry sand to about 5 feet in nothing. Certainly learned a lesson from that one!

Several years before at White Sands Missile Range, much the same thing happened. Several hours of rain on the Organ Mountains and a flash flood took the lives of an MP and a family when the water rose to 10 feet and crossed the main entrance road. From the reports there was little warning. Essentailly a 10 foot wall of water came down the mountain into the drainage and swept them away.