Parenting: Warn kids about water

Murph the meteorologist says flash flooding can be a real dangerous for you, your car and your kids.

" Murph" the meteorologist says flood water can be tempting to kids and dangerous.
April 11, 2012 6:23:49 AM PDT
Growing-up in Delaware County near the Darby Creek, I learned early on what a flood looks like. Creek and stream waters are normally shallow and suppressed into the bottom of a waterway's bed. However they can rise dramatically and quickly in the wake of heavy thunderstorms or after days of extra-tropical rainfall. The result can be enticing.

The flood-sport when I was a kid was for kids to climb aboard old abandoned cement-mixing tubs and go for a ride in the fast waters. These days, young people sometimes get the idea with a canoe or inner tube. In both cases, the results can be (and sometimes are) deadly.

Flood water moves rapidly and often includes underwater currents that are even faster and down-turning. Falling into a flooded stream can lead to a quick emergency as the turbulent waters can have a tendency to suck a person beneath the surface.

Being a good swimmer doesn't help, either, as the currents of rapidly moving water create a pressure and force far greater than even an Olympic freestyler's ability to best.

As a creek exceeds its normal bed, the water slops over the edges onto the adjacent flat ground. Here, the water usually does not have much motion, but here too is where problems for kids often start. For one thing, the ground beneath the water is muddy and slippery and it's easy for a child to lose their footing. Secondly, the water can sometimes obscure what's below, including new fissures and depressions opened by the flood.

Floods are also dangerous away from creeks and streams. A flooded street or sidewalk can appear harmless; often, the water is relatively calm. But hidden storm drains and loose manhole covers can be obscured, rapidly sucking water beneath the surface while showing barely any sign of the danger to an unsuspecting child.

Finally, flood water in urban areas (which basically means any flood occurring across our wide region) is almost always filled with toxins. Everything from raw sewage to chemicals from flooded basements and garages are present in the water. This stuff can make kids sick; everything from rashes to more serious afflictions are possible, which is yet another great reason for them to avoid the water altogether.

Explain all this to your kids and make them respect the power of flood water the same as they would respect a thunderstorm or the threat of lightning.

And while you're at it, develop the same respect as an adult. Remember that it only takes a small amount of rapid-moving water to knock an adult off their feet (let alone a child). Less than a foot of rushing water can lift a car, sending it into the middle of flooded waterway. The bottom line? Do not drive or walk through flooded areas; it's a great lesson to teach and to live.

For more information on thunderstorms and dozens of other weather topics, check-out my Action News Weather Class channel on I've written roughly 150 short articles on various topics, many of them originally posed by school students and viewers.
---David Murphy

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