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March 19, 2019 - Union, MO

From late spring into summer, flash flooding is most frequent in the U.S.  Typically, flooding results in more weather related fatalities than any other thunderstorm related hazard. Why? Because many of the deaths occur in automobiles when driven through flooded roads as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive across a flooded road. 

SEMA (State Emergency Management Agency) issued this statement to motorists in their  March 2019 Floodplain Newsletter.

Missouri’s 39 flood deaths over last 4 years underscore extreme danger of vehicles and flooding: 87% of victims had been in automobiles.

JEFFERSON CITY – A State Emergency Management Agency review of Missouri’s 39 flood deaths over the last four years shows the vital importance of understanding the dangers of driving in areas experiencing flash flooding. Since 2015, 34 of Missouri’s 39 flooding deaths – or 87 percent – were people who had been in vehicles.

“Missourians should keep in mind that flooding – particularly flash flooding – is Missouri’s deadliest severe weather hazard and take action to make sure they’re not putting themselves and their families at risk,” State Emergency Management Agency Director Ron Walker said. “Remember that small creeks, streams and low-water crossings are the most dangerous places, and that you have to pay special attention for flood hazards because visibility is extremely reduced during heavy rains, especially at night.”

In 2015, 11 people died across the state in a single night during torrential rains. All had been in vehicles.

  • In 2018, the one Missourian who died in flooding had been in a vehicle, a Greene County sheriff’s deputy, who drowned when his patrol car was washed off a road by floodwater during a storm.
  • In 2017, all nine people who died in flooding in Missouri had been in vehicles.
  • In 2016, there were two flooding deaths, with one involving a vehicle attempting to cross a flooded waterway.
  • In 2015, 23 of the 27 people who died due to flooding had been in vehicles.

NWS provides safety tips and educational information about tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, lightning and the importance of NOAA Weather Radios on its Severe Weather Awareness Week page: https://www.weather.gov/lsx/severeweek.

SEMA (State Emergency Management Agency) issued these warnings to motorists, in short "Turn Around, Don't Drown". 

  • Never expect barriers to block off flooded low-water crossings or bridges because floodwaters often rise so quick-ly authorities cannot close a road in time.
  • Some motorists never see the high water until it’s too late because of poor visibility due to darkness or heavy rain.
  • Be alert for high water whenever flash flooding is forecast. Slow down when visibility is limited.
  • Never drive into standing water. It can take less than six inches of fast-moving water to make a slow-moving car float. Once floating, a vehicle can overturn and sink.
  • If you wind up in flood water and your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and sweep it away.

More information can be found on Missouri's Stormaware.mo.gov website, which includes detailed videos about how to take shelter from tornadoes in specific locations, how to avoid flash flooding and useful information about tornado sirens, and weather alert radios. Missourians are also encouraged to utilize Missouri’s Ready in 3 program to create a plan, prepare a kit, and listen for information regarding severe weather emergencies.


Union residents are also encouraged to sign up for the CodeRed Alert System.  CodeRED Weather Warning is a severe weather early warning service that will deliver a prerecorded alert message via phone call or email within seconds after a warning is issued by the National Weather Service for your area.