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A Deadly Respect-2004


By LOYD COOK/Daily Sun Staff

With the tragic events that occurred last weekend, the issue of high-water flooding on roadways has been brought painfully to the forefront.

Bill Bunting, meteorologist in charge for the Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service, said that the presence of high-accumulation rainfall doesn't get the

respect it deserves:  A deadly respect.

"People don't need to be told twice to not drive in front of a tornado," Bunting said Monday. "But in this country, twice as many people die from flash flooding as in

tornadoes. We need to give it it's due respect."

Two toddlers and a 33-year-old man died Saturday, victims of two separate flood-related accidents after vicious thunderstorms popped up over Corsicana in the early morning hours.

There are some telling facts about the hazards of sudden, rising water levels: Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle-related, the majority of the victims are males, and flood deaths affect all age groups.

Flash floods can roll boulders, rip up trees, take down buildings and bridges, and make their own channels. And, in hilly areas, flash flooding can trigger large mudslides.

People get used to driving through standing water on roadways during the typical thunderstorm seasons, Bunting said, especially in Texas which is notorious for severe weather.

"You get a comfort level because of that, 'I've done this before' ... and we get caught off guard," he said. Bunting said that two feet of rapidly flowing water is the equivalent of "a 500-pound hammer hitting the side of your vehicle."

For the past year, the National Weather Service has been promoting its "Turn Around Don't Drown®" program in an attempt to stem the tide of flood-related fatalities.

The effort focuses on having the public learn to better inform themselves during severe weather incidents, to avoid areas more prone to flooding and to be especially cautious at night when it is more difficult to identify the problem.

"Cautious" is always the key word, Bunting said.

"If there's any doubt on your mind about that water up ahead -- stop," he said. "Let the water recede or find another way to get where you're going."

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