Here we are in June again, and once again we are watching the water creep higher and higher in our beautiful Teton River. Last weekend we had a very close brush with flooding in the valley. Without snowmelt, instead of a beautiful agricultural area, Teton Valley would be more like a desert with an average of only 16 inches of rain and snow water equivalent a year; a desert is often defined as a place with 10 inches or less. We depend on the rush of snowmelt water each spring to recharge our aquifers and keep us going. But when it all comes in one weekend like it tried to do last weekend, it can cause destruction of property and is a threat to life. Our long slow warm-up this spring may have helped keep the weekend flooding to a minimum this year.
There are resources available to help you protect your property, such as sandbags. But what about staying safe during the high water times? Did you know that the most common reason a person dies during a flood is because he or she drove a vehicle into flood water. The next most common reason is because they walked into flood water. Don’t underestimate the power of moving water. A cubic yard of water weighs more than the original VW beetle. If you think you could keep going with several of those slamming into you, you may want to rethink that plan. Six inches of moving water can knock a person down; a foot of it can carry away your car, 2 feet a pickup truck or SUV.
There will be work to do and precautions to take after the flood, but before that can happen you have to survive the flood itself. The most important way to do that is to remember the National Weather Service’s advice. “Turn around, don’t drown.”